Russia’s UAVs and UCAVs: ISR and Future Strike Capabilities

UAVs manufactured by the Russian company Kronshtadt (Source: Igor Laskin)

Executive Summary

Russia’s use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in contemporary conflicts has yielded the General Staff substantial practical data to assess future requirements and priorities when it comes to procuring additional drones; this also extends to programs aimed at producing Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), which offer operational strike options. These initiatives and the continued modernization in this field confirm the General Staff is learning from the use of UAVs in conflicts involving Russia’s Armed Forces in Ukraine and Syria, while additionally drawing upon the experience of foreign militaries to ascertain a more rounded interpretation of the role and future capabilities offered by such advanced systems.

On the eve of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, its conventional Armed Forces had considerable UAV as well as UCAV platforms in service. Nevertheless, consistent with the broader pattern of Russian military operations in Ukraine, these elements of its most advanced and high-tech military capabilities were under-used. Russia’s Armed Forces possess credible UAV and UCAV capabilities, with the former mainly used for aiding in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Yet this was curiously assigned a minimal role in the earliest phase of the war, which the General Staff apparently did not believe necessitated fuller or systemic use of high-tech capabilities.

Russian thinking on how to develop UAVs and utilize them in warfare originated in the Soviet era, leaving an enduring legacy. Post-Soviet Russia’s Armed Forces experienced a prolonged hiatus in military modernization during the 1990s and into the 2000s, however. And this, combined with Moscow’s experience of small wars during this period, resulted in a modernization black hole that temporarily subsumed such historical ideas and research priorities regarding drone development. Since then, Moscow’s renewed drive to introduce UAVs and UCAVs in greater numbers and diversify their mission types represents an effort to correct this historical chasm, essentially marking a national-self correction rather than principally stemming from competition with foreign militaries.

An integral element in the post-2008 reforms was to engage in this national military self-correction as part of a complex modernization process with the integration of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) as a central and critical feature. Indeed, to date, the overwhelming priority in terms of the use of Russian UAVs is firmly focused upon battlefield sensors to markedly enhance the ISR utility of UAVs.

It is precisely these battlefield roles of providing ISR and aiding in target acquisition and accuracy of fires that mark the key characteristic of Russian unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in general. More recently, Russia has sought to also develop heavy-strike UCAVs. Nonetheless, the weight of priority in Russia’s UAS inventory is likely to remain heavily tilted in favor of ISR.

Moscow has furthered this aspect of its military modernization by building domestic defense-industry capacity to furnish the Armed Forces with modern UAVs, and thus has removed its earlier heavier dependency on foreign procurement. As part of this process, the Armed Forces have been populated with UAV complexes to help fill the void in ISR. The complex processes of introducing new systems, while rebalancing between unmanned aerial assets designed for ISR on the one hand and reconnaissance-strike and strike systems on the other hand, will take time and continued modernization, as will wider efforts to fully integrate these with the developing C4ISR architecture.

The ISR-focused UAV procurement process has benefited from testing and refinements during operations in Ukraine and Syria and drawing lessons from the 2020 conflict in Karabakh. Such theaters of military conflict provided examples for the General Staff to study and draw lessons from the role and potential utility of UASs.

These aims and the high-profile testing of the S-70 Okhotnik UCAV pre-date the 2020 conflict in Karabakh. The lessons drawn from the under-performance of Russian-built tactical air-defense systems, exposed by Azerbaijan using UAV and UCAV reconnaissance-strike and strike systems in conjunction with electronic warfare, have not changed the course of Russian UAS priorities or planning. The General Staff has not drawn lessons from Karabakh that either influenced or sped up the existing programs to develop Russian reconnaissance-strike and aerial strike systems. The 2020 Second Karabakh War did, however, confirm and consolidate Russian military thinking in relation to these systems.

 

Introduction

As Moscow has modernized Russia’s conventional Armed Forces over the past decade or so, the technological aspects in this process have included the adoption and introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).[1] UAVs have routinely been present in Russian combat training and annual operational-strategic military exercises, used in operations from Ukraine to Syria, and frequently highlighted in statements by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.[2] These systems have come to play an essential role across the branches and arms of service, forming a symbiotic relationship with both air defense and electronic warfare (EW).[3] How and why these processes were put in place by the defense ministry leadership forms the basis of this paper.

To better understand the place, role and potential future of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Russia’s Armed Forces, it is worth tracing their Soviet origins, noting the hiatus that occurred in the attention paid by the defense leadership to such systems, and the reasons for why they re-emerged as a high priority in the military modernization agenda. It is also necessary to contextualize the role of UASs in Russia’s military by outlining the country’s defense-industry capacity to support such efforts, its structure and level of specialist knowledge, as well as how these fit into network-centric approaches to warfare and find their niche within Armed Forces structures.[4]

The use of Russian UAVs in contemporary conflicts has offered the General Staff a vast quantity of practical data to assess future requirements and priorities in procuring unmanned aerial systems; this also extends to programs aimed at producing unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) to offer operational strike options.[5] These initiatives and continued modernization in this field will be examined by reference to what the General Staff may be learning from the use of UAVs in conflicts involving Russia’s Armed Forces in Ukraine and Syria, and additionally drawing upon the experience of foreign militaries to ascertain a more rounded interpretation of the role and future capabilities offered by such advanced systems.

In this regard, Russian air-defense and UAV specialists’ analytical attention to the conflicts in Syria and Karabakh in 2020 will be explored to elaborate the extent to which the General Staff may be using these to develop fresh approaches to UAV usage over the modern-day battlefield or address how they impact on other areas of Moscow’s defense planning. Since the reform process for Russia’s Armed Forces was ordered by the political leadership in late 2008, the Armed Forces witnessed considerable transformation and modernization. In the specific field of UAS development, Moscow has come a long way, but equally it still has a long way to go to correct the historical chasm into which Soviet UAV development fell victim.[6]

 

Soviet Interest and Development of UAVs

To understand the principal drivers of modern post-reform efforts and programs to populate Russia’s Armed Forces with UAS, it is necessary to root this in the Russian context.[7] A tendency exists on the part of non-Russian commentaries or analyses of the development of UASs in Russia’s Armed Forces to explain these advances in terms of simply playing catch-up with leading Western militaries or, worse still, to imply that Moscow’s defense leadership is reduced to copying such foreign trends. In a de facto confirmation of the dearth of domestic technological expertise and allegedly awestruck by advances in drone technology on the part of the United States military, such an approach reduces the understanding of these processes within Russia’s Armed Forces and the domestic defense industry to that of mere copycats.

Nonetheless, such an approach is inconsistent with both the Russian military culture and, arguably, the mindset among its cadre of planners. Like much of the main elements of the reform and modernization of the conventional Armed Forces since late 2008, the origins are primarily domestic and driven by major corrections to the Soviet legacy force. The themes of continuity and self-correction in these complex processes, which have resulted in Moscow building credible conventional military capabilities over the past decade, are omnipresent within the corpus of professional Russian military literature. Unsurprisingly, therefore, even in the area of exploiting UASs for military purposes, there is considerable evidence of strong research and development (R&D), scientific advances and state-level orchestration of innovating in the field of UAVs in the Soviet era.[8]

This is not to argue that the broad range of modern Russian R&D and procurement in the area of UAS capabilities can be explained solely by reference to this historical legacy. Clearly, the contemporary military and defense leadership is open to learning from foreign examples and approaches, based upon domestic analyses of these trends in modern warfare.[9] However, in Russian military culture, history does matter; and this Soviet military-scientific legacy is consequently viewed by many Russian writers as the backdrop—if not an inspiration—to ongoing and future projects in this field. Similarly, compared with the origin, development and exploitation of EW, Russian interest in UASs is almost as old as aviation itself. Within the specialist Russian literature, for example, the history and manufacturing of early and later advances in drone technology has attended similar research trends that connect to modern UAV and UCAV analysis.[10]

It is this history that provides much of the context for the “catching-up” and defining the challenges stemming from the degree of threat posed by potential adversary use of UASs: the catch-up is arguably a national military self-correction to reestablish the place of such systems in advanced R&D.[11] It is also an inherent element in the Russian Armed Forces’ variant of network-centric warfare capability, and the ongoing exploitation of battlefield sensors to radically enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) for target acquisition and accuracy of fires.[12] In this complex defense-planning environment, reflecting the changing character of war, close analytical attention is undoubtedly paid to the innovations and advances in foreign military application of UASs; but it is not the only factor in this process.[13]

Unmanned systems first made an appearance in the early Soviet period, through the late 1930s. Soviet advances in this area began with exclusively military-based research to develop unmanned systems in the early 1920s; and over almost two decades, they succeeded in fielding several examples.[14] On July 28, 1927, the first Soviet unmanned experimental flight took place with the U-1. From a ground controller, the U-1 made turns, flew straight and carried out descents and climbing maneuvers. By 1933, the TB-1 bomber was outfitted with an autopilot system, and further improvements led to modified upgrades with the U-2 and the TB-2. The process was furthered both during the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) and in the early years of the Cold War, with systems manufactured by the Yakovlev and Tupolev Soviet aerospace companies.[15]

In 1949, for example, Yakovlev manufactured the Yak-9V, which flew an unmanned mission through the mushroom cloud produced during an atomic bomb test in Semipalatinsk, Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). In the 1960s and 1970s, Soviet aerospace companies produced additional unmanned systems.[16] Indeed, the late-Soviet era and into the 1990s saw the first strategic UAVs, with the Tu-300 Korshun, as well as a range of tactical short-range UAVs, including the Pchela-60S and Pchela-1T; while Kamov began manufacturing short-range unmanned helicopters, such as the Ka-37 and Ka-137, among others.[17]

Interest in and the development of domestic capacity to manufacture UAVs clearly had a Soviet pedigree; yet after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, drone R&D almost vanished from the Russian military landscape. This was not limited to unmanned aerial systems. Much of the conventional military modernization programs and force enhancements envisaged in the latter Soviet period—most notably the ideas championed by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov (chief of the Soviet General Staff, 1977–1984) in what became known as the Revolyutsiya v Voyennom Dele (Revolution in Military Affairs, or RMA)—fell into abeyance following the 1991 Soviet collapse.[18]

Russia’s Soviet-legacy Armed Forces experienced a prolonged hiatus in military modernization during the 1990s and into the 2000s. This, combined with Moscow’s experience of small wars during this time, resulted in a modernization black hole that temporarily subsumed such historical ideas and research priorities—including UAS development and thought on how to employ drones over a battlefield.[19] Even though Russian military specialists and military theorists were painfully aware of the burgeoning evolution of such systems in the approaches to warfare pursued by foreign militaries, with the United States military leading the way, the exploitation of UAV technology was both under-developed and largely ignored in the pre-reform era. That situation would not change until the genuine reform drive ordered by the political leadership in late 2008.[20]

 

Recasting Russia’s UAVs for ISR and Automation

Notwithstanding the R&D gap and military force decline caused by the financial difficulties of post-Communist transition during the first two decades of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s interest in UAV development is well established. Modern UAV production had begun in the 1980s, and the first Soviet-built models were used by the Russian Armed Forces during operations in Chechnya; though they did not always perform well. New models began entering service in the 2000s, with Dozor-85 as one of the first reconnaissance platforms. In the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia War in August 2008, the defense ministry markedly increased its interest in re-equipping the Armed Forces with modern UAV complexes, initially relying upon foreign imports from Israel. During operations in southeastern Ukraine since 2014, the Russian-led Donbas “separatists” have frequently been observed using modern Russian UAVs such as the Orlan-3M and Orlan-10, launched by catapult and landing by parachute. The Orlan-10 UAV features as part of an advanced EW system, the Leer-3 RB-341V, which has been operated in both Ukraine and Syria. In addition to its reconnaissance functions and EW missions, it appears to be used to carry out psychological operations (PSYOPS): the Leer-3 blocks enemy cell phones and can then transmit its own messages to them, as was recorded in the earliest stages of the Russian-initiated destabilization of Donbas.[21]

Denis Fedutinov, a Moscow-based specialist in UASs, explained why the role of UAVs in modern conflict was underestimated for so long: “The Russian military, as well as the political authorities of the country, who successfully slept through the unmanned revolution, suddenly realized in the late 2000s the importance and significance of these systems for themselves.” Consequently, this realization has prompted several large-scale programs to address these issues. Nonetheless, Fedutinov noted that in the current circumstances, it is not possible to act consistently, moving from simple to complex systems. Fedutinov argued, “If foreign companies that create UAVs act as system integrators, using the most suitable solutions for subsystems, then in our country, at the start of these large-scale works, such an approach was simply impossible due to the lack of not only ready-made technical solutions in many areas but also the lack of scientific and technical groundwork for them.”[22]

An integral element, therefore, of the post-2008 reforms was to engage in this national military self-correction as part of a complex modernization process with the integration of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) as a central and critical feature. Indeed, to date, the overwhelming priority in terms of the use of Russian drones is firmly focused upon battlefield sensors to markedly enhance the UAVs’ ISR utility. However, before turning to the more directly military-scientific foundations and drivers of this process applied to Russia’s military UAV procurement priorities, it is also important to avoid isolating these developments from other factors. Domestic models and the rapid growth of Russian companies involved in the R&D and manufacture of UAVs has significantly expanded since around 2000. This not only relates to the manufacturing of particular UAV types but their serial production; of course, this is not exclusively for military purposes. The increase in domestically produced UAVs for both military and civil use coincided with a sharp growth in the number of companies engaged in UAV development work; an increase in the specialist literature on UAV R&D, testing and trends in production; research work on UAVs conducted in universities across the Russian Federation; and the rise in domestic demand and export of UAVs.[23]

UAV development in Russia is not principally beholden to military demands. Production can equally be driven by commercial organizations, small specialized enterprises, research institutes, design bureaus, universities or private individuals. Although the actual statistics on the overall number of domestic developers of Russian UAVs is not publicly available, the table in Appendix 1 is presented to offer a sense of the scale of domestic capacity; while many of these are directly contracted to carry out R&D and production of UAVs for the defense ministry or security agencies, they also cover dual-use organizations.[24]

The leading R&D center tasked with conducting work on UAV development for the defense ministry is the 924 State Center for UAV Aviation (Gosudarstvennyi Tsentr Bespilotnoy Aviatsii—GTsBA), with its headquarters in Kolomna, Moscow Oblast. In 2009, the forerunner of the 924 GTsBA was relocated to Kolomna on the base of the disbanded higher military artillery command school. Two regiments, a separate UAV squadron and an aviation technical base were reorganized into an aviation base. At the same time, there was a reassignment of the center’s various governing bodies: these included the Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily—VVS) intelligence service, 4th State Center for the Training of Aviation Personnel and Military Tests in Lipetsk, 467 Inter-Service District Training Center of the Western Military District in Kovrov. In 2013, the center was reorganized as the 924 GTsBA, which made it possible to clearly structure the management of UAVs on the scale required for the Armed Forces, to resolve issues of training specialists, and assist in the formation of UAV units. It also has an airfield facility in Stupino, Moscow Oblast, to conduct full-fledged flight training for UAV specialists.[25]

The 924 GTsBA has the following organizational structure:

  • Management and services of the center;
  • Center for training specialists in unmanned aviation;
  • Research center, focused on the combat use and testing of unmanned aircraft;
  • Center for combat and flight training of aviation personnel of unmanned aircraft.[26]

The head of the 924 GTsBA in 2021 is Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Zolotukhin, and the main tasks of the center are:

  • Military scientific support for the creation, operation and modernization of complexes with UAVs;
  • Investigation of the issues of the combat use of UAV units, the development and improvement of methods of conducting combat operations, their all-round support, and the organization of interaction;
  • Investigation of the issues of interaction between UAV units and units of the services and combat arms of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Federal Security Service (FSB);
  • Research of issues of combat training of UAV units, development and improvement of its content, forms and methods of conducting, methods and standards of assessment;
  • Investigation of the issues of organizing, conducting and ensuring the safety of UAV flights;
  • Participation in the development and substantiation of tactical and technical requirements for complexes with UAVs;
  • Participation in tests and pilot operation of complexes with UAVs, as well as samples of weapons and military equipment developed for unmanned aircraft.[27]

The main functions of the research center are to facilitate the use of UAVs in the interests of the branches and arms of service of the Armed Forces, special services, and other power ministries. The center also assists in the process of introducing new UAV complexes within the Armed Forces. In 2017, the Center’s UAV armament for training purposes consisted of a variety of complexes. These included short-range UAVs manufactured by IZHMASH enterprises (Granat 1, -2, -3, -4, Takhion) and by ENIKS (Eleron-3). A Special Technological Center in St. Petersburg, part of the 924 GTsBLA, handled Orlan-10 and Leer-3. The Ural Civil Aviation Plant manufactured the Zastava and Forpost medium-range UAVs, manufactured from foreign-made components. Both are also used for training purposes.[28]

Against this background, since the reform of 2008, there has been an exponential increase in the number of UAVs across the Russian military. The process has been fueled by modernization priorities, the adoption of C4ISR, the need for improving target acquisition (with linkages to improvements in operational-tactical air defense and EW), as well as automation of C4ISR. These processes have also been furthered dramatically by the experience gained by the Armed Forces in the use of UAVs in Ukraine and Syria, as well as while operating in environments where adversary UAVs posed a threat to Russian facilitates and personnel.[29]

In February 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during a meeting with students at the Siberian Federal University, stated that Russia’s Armed Forces at that time had around 500 UAVs in their inventory. Shoigu added that the program to re-equip the Armed Forces with UAVs to 2020 envisaged spending approximately 320 billion rubles (around $4.6 billion).[30] In 2014, Tu-243, Pchela-1T, ZALA 421-08 and Orlan-10 models were the workhorses of the UAV inventory, and by 2017 nine types of medium-range and short-range drones were procured: Forpost, Orlan-10, Granat-1, -2, -3, -4, Takhion, Eleron-3SV and Zastava. These were displayed during the Armiya 2017 forum. Although the precise details concerning the number of procured UAVs is not officially disclosed, it appears that by 2018 the number had increased to around 1,800.[31] By November 2021, according to President Vladimir Putin, this number had exceeded 2,000.[32]

While the numbers tell only part of the story, and by no means establish the extent of UAV exploitation in the Russian military inventory, it is useful to delineate how these actually populate the service branches and arms. All branches of service have been re-equipped with UAVs, though by far the most prominent of these is the Ground Forces. The backbone of these UAVs in the Ground Forces is made up of the Orlan-10 family of UAVs, and also the Granat, Eleron and Takhion. Similar to the reformed organic structure of the maneuver brigades possessing EW companies, the motorized rifle and tank brigades and divisions have organic UAV companies, with similar subunits located within the reconnaissance brigades (Figure 1). These Ground Forces motorized rifle and tank brigades and divisions all contain a UAV company; the UAV company comprises of two platoons. The first UAV platoon is the short-range platoon, armed with Orlan-10 and Takhion-4 UAVs. The second platoon is a close-range (blizhnego deystviya) platoon, and its main weapons are the Granat-1, 2, 3 and 4, Zastava, Takhion and Eleron.[33]

Figure 1: Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) Structure: UAV Company

UAV companies also function along similar lines within the Airborne Forces (Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska—VDV) divisions, as well as in the Naval Infantry. The Missile and Artillery Troops (Raketnyye Voyska i Artilleriya—RV&A) brigades use UAVs to select suitable positions for Iskander systems, and also to protect them. UAV subunits in the artillery brigades have a distinctive organizational structure. In addition to Orlan-10-based platoons, they have teams equipped with the latest Orlan-30 UAVs and specialist platoons for artillery UAV reconnaissance.[34]

Several UAV squadrons, both separate and as part of aviation regiments, operate within the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno Kosmicheskikh Sil—VKS). These VKS units and subunits operate the Forpost family of UAVs, while this has also more recently been extended to include the Orlan-10. A separate aviation squadron was formed in 2020 to support training at the Plesetsk airfield, and alongside its helicopters and aircraft are Orlan-10 UAVs, tasked with ensuring the security of rocket launches from Plesetsk.[35]

Russia’s navy, the Military-Maritime Fleet (Voyenno-Morskoy Flot—VMF), has separate UAV regiments. These are armed with the Forpost drone family and the Orlan-10. Orlan teams have been based onboard Russian corvettes and frigates since 2018. Forpost UAV squadrons also constitute part of several Naval Aviation regiments, such as the 689th Fighter Regiment in Kaliningrad and the 318th (Crimea) and 71st (Kamchatka) composite aviation regiments. The VMF UAV regiments and squadrons work with surface ships and submarines; they support separate artillery and coastal missile and artillery brigades, and also coastal defense units.[36]

If there was any doubt as to the utility and purpose behind the drive to equip the Ground Forces in particular with UAVs, it was made clear by the head of the RV&A, Lieutenant General Mikhail Matveevskiy, during an Izvestia interview in November 2021. In the piece, he talked about the development of promising military equipment; progress in rearmament, guided missiles and artillery shells; and how UAVs help RV&A units strike their targets faster and more accurately. In passing, Matveevskiy estimated the share of modern or new weapons and equipment in the RV&A inventory had reached 60 percent and the rearmament of missile formations with the modern operational-tactical complex Iskander-M was almost complete. However, his comments on UAVs and their role in the RV&A stressed their overriding value lying in ISR:

All our artillery formations are already equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles. The experience of local wars and armed conflicts in recent years has shown that the full implementation of the combat capabilities of the RV&A is impossible without the use of reconnaissance assets to the entire depth of the zone of responsibility of combined-arms formations. UAVs, as one of the most effective means of obtaining reconnaissance information, are included in reconnaissance and strike (fire) complexes created on the basis of missile forces and artillery units. This allows us today to hit the identified targets in a time mode close to real time.[37]

Matveevskiy not only confirmed the critical role played by Russian UAVs in ISR for the RV&A, but highlighted the significance of such battlefield sensors in Russia’s variant of network-centric warfare, namely the Reconnaissance-Fire System (Razvedyvatel’no-Ognevaya Sistema—ROS) and the Reconnaissance-Strike System (Razvedyvatel’no-Udarnaya Sistema—RUS), which serve to integrate C4ISR to include fires across operational-tactical levels.[38] Moreover, in terms of the use of UAVs in aiding target acquisition for artillery systems in the RV&A, Matveevskiy’s comments are also borne out by reference to specialist educational literature used for training purposes within this arm of service.

These military-scientific publications[39] analyze existing and prospective reconnaissance and fire complexes of tactical artillery, including a range of UAV types and how these integrate into automated command and control (C2). Mathematical models and methods of control of UAV platforms, target designation and selection of the initial drone parameters (envisaging vertical ascent/descent and horizontal flight) also form the basis of such analysis. The general information technology of reconnaissance, target designation and application of UASs as part of a Reconnaissance-Fire System were also detailed by the monograph’s authors. Some specialist military-scientific works in the formative years of the reform also specifically examined UAVs in the existing theory of using guided artillery shells, offering models and methods for their optimal planning. These military theorists consider methods for overcoming the active protection zones of targets with controlled artillery shells and planning a simultaneous strike on a target with both unguided and guided artillery shells. Models and methods of organizing target acquisition from UAVs are described.[40]

As previously noted, the UAV component is an important and essential element in the Russian Armed Forces’ network-centric warfare capability. In 2018, Sergei Makarenko and Maksim Ivanov published a lengthy study, Setetsentricheskaya voyna—printsipy, tekhnologii, primery i perspektivy (Network-Centric War—Principles, Technologies, Examples and Perspectives), in which the authors amplified the role of UAVs among other components of battlefield sensors. Makarenko and Ivanov explained the concept of “global intelligence support” of the battlespace as follows:

Global intelligence support (literally from the English “deep sensory penetration”). This principle of network-centric warfare requires an increase in the number and improvement of the quality of reconnaissance sensors and channels for obtaining information, both in the combat area and outside it. Global intelligence support is implemented through:

  • Unification into a single database of information received by intelligence, surveillance and recognition systems;
  • Massive use of highly mobile multi-sensor technical means (UAVs, robotic systems, perimeter security sensors, etc.) as reconnaissance sensors;
  • The use of sensors and observation points as an instrument of moral influence on the enemy;
  • Supplying each combat means (complex), from an individual soldier to a satellite, with a variety of sensors and information sensors.

Global intelligence support means that information is collected from different sources, while different combat units are equipped with the maximum amount of surveillance equipment.[41]

It is precisely this role—as a prime means of battlefield sensors to provide ISR and aid target acquisition and accuracy of fires—that is the key characteristic of Russian unmanned aerial systems to date. More recent efforts to re-balance lies in the field of heavy-strike UCAVs. Nonetheless, the weight of priority in Russia’s UAS inventory is likely to remain heavily tilted in favor of ISR. In addition to issues that serve to hamper the domestic defense industry in UAV/UCAV development, such as design and the production of engines for these complexes, a number of factors mitigate the potential to exploit unmanned systems in the inventory of Russia’s Armed Forces.[42] V. A. Agamalyan, the general director of YuVS Avia, co-authored an article among a collection of papers from a 2017 scientific conference in Moscow, in which the issues reducing the effectiveness of UAV use were elaborated.[43] The authors based this on the results of tests and use in real operating conditions in relation to UAVs being utilized by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Moreover, these trends are of a systemic nature and can be generalized to include all types of small UAVs. These were characterized as:

  1. In terms of unification and standardization: complete incompatibility of the payload, onboard communications, ground control stations, batteries and chargers, information-linguistic and software of various UAV manufacturers between products with similar functions. Each manufacturer selects the specified equipment based on the available resources and capabilities, which leads to incompatibility, an increase in the cost of both the work performed and the final cost of products, and a narrowing of the range of tasks that can be solved using UAVs;

  2. In terms of control, telemetry and information transfer: functioning under the conditions of a directed effect of enemy EW means (electronic suppression, control interception, blocking of communication lines or networks) on UAV control channels and data flow from the payload, blocking of GNSS signals;

  3. Regarding the control system, intelligence and communications: the lack of integration of the UAV control system into automated systems of various control levels. The active development of automated control systems for planning and controlling troops and weapons at various levels of control does not currently imply the use of UAVs in their control loops;

  4. In terms of planning the use: independent planning of the use of each individual UAV. As a result, the impossibility of redistribution (including concentration) of UAV resources, depending on the tasks to be solved and the current situation.[44]

Agamalyan’s specialist and firsthand knowledge of the UAV dimension of the Armed Forces, as well as his close proximity to the R&D and procurement of UAVs, testify to the credibility of these observations. They are a sobering reminder that, like other systems, UAVs in and of themselves do not represent a game changer for the Russian military. After the gap that opened in this area compared to UAV adoption in operations by foreign militaries, it is unsurprising that such issues are present and persistent within the Russian military modernization process. What is particularly worth noting is the reference to using UAVs in an electromagnetic contested operational environment; not only are some Russian UAV platforms integral to certain EW systems, but they must also take notice of the potential for adversaries to deploy EW assets to target Russian drones in any given conflict. Moreover, the task of integrating these complexes into the overall automated C2 architecture is also highlighted.[45]

A no less challenging task, and undoubtedly a high priority for the senior defense leadership, relates to the need to integrate UAV and future UCAV systems with existing and in-development automated C2. Again, Agamalyan’s co-authored conference paper notes the intricacy of such integration, which lies close to the heart of the ROS and RUS and ongoing adoption of C4ISR. The authors state:

To ensure the integration of UAV control systems into existing and developed automated C2, it is proposed:

A) As part of the UAV software, to have:

  • General and special software of the automated control system in using the UAV;
  • Special software that implements the unique functions of planning and control of the UAV, its maintenance and repair;
  • Technological software from the onboard control system and the ground control station, which implements the functions of direct control of the flight, takeoff and landing of the UAV;

B) Develop information and linguistic support for the planning of the use and control of the UAV on the basis of the appropriate provision of the automated C2 system in the interests of which it is used;

C) Include provisions on the installation of this equipment in the control and communications facilities (mobile and/or stationary) in the documentation for the ground control equipment of the UAV and the payload.[46]

In a comparatively short period, Moscow has made significant progress toward remedying the technological gap that developed in unmanned systems, which represented a fracture in the continuum with the Soviet era; as this gap developed, the leading foreign militaries made further strides in the direction of harnessing UAVs. Moscow has furthered this aspect of its military modernization by building domestic defense-industry capacity to furnish the Armed Forces with modern UAVs and, thus, has removed its earlier dependency on foreign procurement. As part of this process, the Armed Forces have been populated with UAV complexes to help fill the void in ISR, with their primary role as battlefield sensors aiding target acquisition and accuracy of fires. The complex processes of introducing new systems, rebalancing between unmanned aerial assets designed for ISR to also include reconnaissance-strike and strike systems, will take time and continued modernization, as will wider efforts to fully integrate these with the developing C4ISR architecture.[47]

 

Russian Dependence Upon Foreign Technologies

Since Russia’s armed entry into Ukraine in 2014, the subsequent conflict has witnessed a profusion of deployed Russian weapons and equipment; Russian UAVs proved to be no exception, with almost every system in service featuring in the fighting in Donbas. An assumption within Western analyses of the development of Russian military UAVs is that Russia’s domestic defense industry is significantly hampered by the impact of the international sanctions regime imposed in the aftermath of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. This is an over simplification, however, which does not take into account the numerous workarounds Russian defense companies had employed to gain access to foreign dual-use technologies. Documented examples have emerged of Russia’s domestic arms producers accessing foreign technologies even in the highly sensitive area of military UAV technology, despite the allegedly tight and restrictive nature of international sanctions. In November 2021, the United Kingdom–based company Conflict Armament Research (CAR) issued a report, covering a three-year period, that details Russian weapons and equipment involved in the Ukraine conflict.[48]

Among the wide range of military technology observed in Donbas, the CAR report focuses on a half a dozen systems:

CAR documented six different models of Russian military UAVs that Ukrainian defense and security forces recovered from armed formations in Ukraine. All six UAVs were recovered in Donetsk region. Each of these military UAVs is made of commercial and dual-use components such as GPS modules, electronic parts, cameras, and engines. CAR identified companies with headquarters in ten countries (outside of the Russian Federation) that produced components documented in these six UAVs: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[49]

The six Russian UAVs were the Zastava, an unknown model (resembling the Orlan-10), Eleron-3SV, Granat-2, Orlan-10 and Forpost. These Russian manufactured UAVs were identified as the remains of such complexes operating in southeastern Ukraine between October 2016 and November 2020.[50]

The report details the dates and UAV type in each instance as:

Zastava

On 12 October 2020, CAR documented a Zastava UAV with the number 405. Ukrainian defense and security forces recovered the UAV near Svitlodars’k (Donetsk region) on 5 April 2020. Ural Works of Civil Aviation manufactured the UAV, a licensed copy of the Israeli IAI BirdEye, in or around 2013.

Unknown model (resembling the Orlan-10)

On three separate dates—17 December 2018, 11 May 2019, and 10 November 2020—CAR documented a single intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance UAV of unknown designation and with the number 2166. Ukrainian defense and security forces downed the UAV on 8 February 2017 near Mariupol (Donetsk region). This model resembles the Orlan-10 in some ways but the two UAVs are fundamentally different. On 18 May 2021, CAR documented a UAV model in Lithuania that was identical to one recovered in Ukraine in 2016. According to Lithuanian security forces, the UAV entered the country’s airspace near the border with Latvia and Belarus, flew to Poland, and subsequently crashed in north-western Lithuania on its return journey, where authorities recovered it in October 2016.

Eleron-3SV

On 12 December 2019, CAR documented two Eleron-3SV UAVs, manufactured by JSC ‘ENICS’. Ukrainian defense and security forces recovered the first of these near the town of Horlivka (Donetsk region) on 29 June 2019 and the second near the town of Svitlodars’k (Donetsk region) on 11 July 2019. Based on marks found on internal components, CAR’s assessment is that the UAVs were manufactured in or around 2015.

Granat-2

On 10 November 2020, CAR documented a Granat-2 UAV manufactured by Izhmash Unmanned Systems. Ukrainian defence and security forces recovered this UAV near Chermalyk (Donetsk region) on 18 November 2018.

Orlan-10

On 26 September 2018, CAR documented an Orlan-10 UAV bearing the number 10264. Bar code stickers on the UAV indicate that it was manufactured in or around 2014.

Forpost

On 26 September 2018, CAR documented a Forpost UAV bearing the number 923. Ukrainian defense and security forces downed the UAV near Pisky (Donetsk region) on 18 May 2015. The UAV’s Hobbs meter (the airframe flight hours counter) indicates that the UAV was flown for a total of 723 hours before Ukrainian defense and security forces recovered it. Ural Works of Civil Aviation manufactured the Forpost, which is a licensed copy of the Israeli IAI Searcher. Date marks on some of the components documented by CAR indicate that they were produced in Israel in mid-2013.[51]

The CAR report found foreign components in the Zastava UAV:

A German company, Hacker Motor, manufactured the engine. CAR also documented an electronic component manufactured by the US company VWeb Corporation, and an autopilot unit manufactured by the Spanish company UAV Navigation. In the unidentified UAV, components were manufactured by companies with headquarters in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States.[52]

In the case of the Eleron-3SVs,

The circuit board of one of the UAVs’ main camera features a 32-bit microcontroller unit. The manufacturer, STMicroelectronics, replied to a CAR trace request, confirming that it had assembled and shipped the unit in 2014. The circuit board itself also bears a 2014 date mark. The main camera in one of the Eleron-3SV UAVs is a Sony FCB-EX11DP. Inside both UAVs, CAR investigators found secondary Olympus Stylus TG-860 point-and-shoot cameras manufactured in 2015. Both Sony and Olympus have yet to provide more information about the items CAR documented.[53]

The Granat-2 contained an array of foreign components:

Intel Corporation (US) replied to a CAR trace request, stating that the lot number and trace code marks on the component – labelled ‘Altera’ – did not exactly match any Altera products, and that the component that CAR documented could be one of six Altera products, and that Intel was unable to identify the recipient of the item that CAR had documented.

Pulse Electronics (US) confirmed that they had manufactured the PC Card LAN Magnetic Module at a facility in China in 2013. The company confirmed that it produced 11,360 units of this component with the same date code, and sold them to four distributors in December 2013. Subsequent tracing efforts with those distributors have not yet established the onward chain of custody for this component.

Max Amps (US) confirmed that it had manufactured the LiPo 1100 18.5v battery that CAR documented in the Granat-2 UAV in Ukraine, but that the company had sold thousands of similar batteries and that the item that was being traced did not have the unique identifying information to enable traceability. However, MaxAmps did confirm that it does not ship batteries directly to Ukraine.

Model Motors (Czech Republic) also confirmed that it had manufactured the AXI 2826/10 Gold Line engine that CAR documented in Ukraine. The company stated that it manufactured this model between 2005 and 2017, which was sold for use in model aircraft constructed by hobbyists. Model Motors also stated that 99 per cent of its buyers are located in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, and the United States, and that it did not distribute its products directly to the Russian Federation or Ukraine.[54]

In the case of the Orlan-10, CAR discovered:

The UAV is fitted with a GPS module produced by a company called u-blox AG, which is headquartered in Switzerland. The same circuit-board that contains the u-blox component also holds an MNP-M7 GPS receiver, produced by the Russian company Izhevsk Radio Plant. While the Forpost UAV contained components from France and the United States, and ties to the Israel Aerospace Industries: CAR also documented the GPS antenna of the UAV, which was produced in the United States. The manufacturer, Antcom Corporation, produced it in March 2013 and sold it to another company, NovAtel, which subsequently transferred it to Israel Aerospace Industries in Israel in May 2013. IAI has yet to respond to CAR’s trace request, which sought information on the onward supply of this item.[55]

The CAR report examining the foreign component parts found in these Russian manufactured UAVs concluded:

CAR’s tracing of components of Russian-manufactured UAVs recovered in Ukraine identified independent Russian electronics and component distributors as conduits for foreign technology acquisition on behalf of Russian defense and security entities.

These commercial and dual-use components were manufactured by companies with headquarters in ten different countries: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In some cases detailed here, disagreements between European governments and industry actors pose challenges for the enforcement of embargoes. Opaque licensing requirements for dual-use components, combined with a lack of clarity over the ultimate end use or end user of those components, appear to facilitate the integration of key [European Union]-made technology into Russian military UAVs, despite an EU arms embargo that was imposed on the Russian Federation in 2014.[56]

While such details concerning the presence of foreign components within Russian UAVs have implications for the enforcement of international sanctions, they also reveal an unflattering image of the domestic defense industry. Despite several years of sanctions against Russia, in sensitive areas such as UAV development, domestic companies still depend on acquiring parts and electronics from foreign suppliers.[57] An Orlan UAV recovered in southeastern Ukraine in January 2018 was found to have a Japanese model aircraft engine.[58] Although these foreign dependencies are likely to lessen in the future, as the domestic defense industry finally adjusts to these realities, it also provides context for the extent to which existing R&D programs on UAVs and particularly UCAVs are somewhat slow to yield successful completion. This is especially evident in the drive to re-balance the UAV inventory beyond ISR to cover reconnaissance-strike and strike systems.

 

Future Unmanned Aerial Strike Capability

Attack UAVs (Udarnyye Bespilotnyye Letatel’nyye Apparatiy—UBLA) are becoming an increasingly powerful factor in the initial period of war. Based on the constantly changing and growing role played by such strike systems in modern warfare, these are constantly developing and improving; this requires careful and thorough analysis of all aspects of their application. Within the Russian literature considering such strike systems, they are categorized into:

  • Attack UAVs designed to combat ground targets using airborne weapons;

  • UAVs using electronic warfare (Bespilotnyye Letatel’nyye Apparaty-Radioelektronnoi Bor’by—BLA-REB), used to disable ground and air communications and enemy C2;

  • UAV-fighters (BLA-istrebiteli—UAV-I) to combat unmanned and manned aircraft;

  • Auxiliary UAVs designed to perform certain functions to support Ground Forces combat operations.[59]

Within the Russian military literature on UAVs, these are commonly and interchangeably referred to as attack/strike or even shock UAVs. They feature increasingly in modern conflict; as such, Russia’s senior defense leadership also pays close attention to those developments and prioritizes the R&D and procurement of “shock UAV” capabilities for the Armed Forces. In Russia, various defense industry companies are developing strike UCAVs, including Dan’-Baruk, Zenitsa, Al’tair, Skat, Proryv-U, and the S-70 Okhotnik UCAVs. These developments remain at various stages. An experimental strike version of the Tu-300 Korshun-U UAV has been publicized as a system in development.[60] The NPO Aviation Systems, in conjunction with the Flight Research Institute named after M.M. Gromov, has developed an attack helicopter–type UAV—the Skymak-3001—with a take-off weight of 800 kilograms. Taking into account the geographic scale of Russia, it can be noted that in the military sector there is a need for unmanned reconnaissance vehicles with a long flight duration. Thus, at the MAKS-2017 airshow, the Kronstadt company presented the first Russian aerial reconnaissance complex with a long flight duration and a takeoff weight of about one ton—the UAV Orion-E. It appears to be not only designed for reconnaissance but as a reconnaissance-strike platform.[61] According to the defense aviation magazine Air Force Technology, ongoing Russian R&D on strike UCAVs include the following:

Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B (Hunter)

The S-70 Okhotnik-B (Hunter) is a stealth-capable combat drone being developed by Sukhoi Design Bureau and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG. The drone made its first flight in August 2019. The unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) is expected to be delivered to the Russian armed forces in 2024.[62]

Grom (Thunder)

Grom (Thunder) is a new stealth combat drone designed by Kronstadt. A mock-up of the UCAV was presented during the Army-2020 trade show held in Moscow, in August 2020. The Thunder UCAV is intended to operate, along with the Su-35 and Su-57 fighter aircraft, to provide reconnaissance data and fire missiles upon receiving commands from the manned jet.[63]

Altius-U

The Altius-U medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drone is being developed by Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA). The attack and reconnaissance capabilities of the drone are believed to be comparable to that of RQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs.[64]

Kronstadt Sirius

The Sirius medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) attack UAV from Kronstadt is touted to be the biggest Russian drone with a wingspan of 30 [meters]. It is intended to support the surveillance missions at the borders and the Russian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Arctic and the Pacific.[65]

Kronshtadt Orion

Orion is a medium-altitude combat-capable UAV developed by Kronstadt, a part of Sistema JSFC. Kronstadt showcased the Orion drone, along with a full range of weapons, during the Army-2020 defence exhibition held in August 2020.[66]

The Sukhoi heavy-strike UCAV S-70 Okhotnik, the highest-profile of these strike systems, works together with the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter. The experimental version was first publicly seen in early 2019 and underwent its first test flight in August 2019. The S-70 Okhotnik remains at its testing stage, yet advances in its design—which include a fitted stealth nozzle on its single engine—suggest it will offer a formidable strike capability for the VKS.[67] The reported development of the Su-57 focuses on its strike potential. It differs from the United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 and China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-20 since it is designed to be much more versatile, less focused on gaining air superiority, and with greater ability to engage ground and sea-based targets. The Su-57 will have an array of weapons systems at its disposal. In particular, the PBK-500U Drel allows the Su-57 to strike ground targets at a distance of 30–50 kilometers based on the “fire and forget” principle.[68] The GLONASS-guided cluster glide bombs use inertial and satellite guidance for maximum accuracy. Long-range strike for the Su-57 involves the use of Kh-59MK2 cruise missiles with a warhead weighing 320 kilograms. These can destroy targets at distances of up to 285 kilometers.[69]

In relation to the S-70 Okhotnik’s stealth nozzle, the layout is new for domestic aviation and clearly differs from the first prototype. Unlike the commonplace round nozzles, the Okhotnik will use a rectangular (flat) nozzle. This design feature was not previously employed in Russian aviation, but it has been notably implemented in the USAF F-22 and the supersonic heavy stealth strategic bomber B-2 Spirit, produced by Northrop. The flat nozzle design makes it possible to increase the stealthiness of an aircraft’s signature, thus boosting its survivability. According to Sergei Kuzmin, a deputy general designer at the Motor Design Bureau, the S-70 Okhotnik’s flat nozzle will allow for more efficient dissipation of the heat trace from the engine. Consequently, the Okhotnik will be less vulnerable to guided missiles with infrared homing heads.[70]

An analysis published in a Russian aviation website argues that the S-70 is intended almost exclusively for large-scale warfare. Noting the lack of strike capability in Russia’s UAV/UCAV military inventory, with the current focus on ISR, the commentator alleges that the S-70 appears designed for high-end conflict with a peer adversary; it would be tasked with suppressing long-range air-defense systems as well as destroying important targets in the operational depth of the enemy, or providing cover to manned aircraft from ground-based attacks.[71]

Moscow is increasingly seeking to diversify its unmanned aerial inventory beyond heavy-strike UCAVs as well. In April 2021, Russia’s defense ministry released video footage from Syria of the country’s Special Operations Forces employing a Lantset loitering drone to conduct strikes against moving and stationary ground targets.[72] While the Lantset illustrates the increased diversity of Russian UAV technologies and substantial interest in fielding unmanned platforms for strike operations, Moscow-based military specialists note the limits of such systems.[73] The Lantset UAV acts as a loitering munition (barrazhiruyushchiy boyepripas), sometimes referred to as a “kamikaze drone.” The first of these systems appeared in Russia’s military inventory in 2019. Kalashnikov Concern announced that the Lantset strike UAV had completed tests in July 2019. Its novelty for the Russian Armed Forces lies in the UAV carrying out both reconnaissance and strike missions similar to a high-precision missile. Such UAVs have an integrated warhead, are capable of long flights, and can loiter for lengthy periods over the battlefield while fixing and locating the target before destroying it. Similar drones are produced internationally and, notably, featured in Azerbaijan’s military operations in Karabakh in 2020.[74]

UAV systems such as the Lantset certainly provide Russia’s Armed Forces with a new capability, especially in the area of conducting non-contact strikes. Vladimir Shcherbakov, the deputy editor of Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, notes that the Lantset can inflict operational strikes on important targets and reduce the costs per kill. Such UAVs are also highly adaptable in the applied trajectory and the ability to significantly reduce the possibility of losses among the personnel of their forces by increasing the accuracy in the use of munitions. Equally, the Lantset benefits from the simplicity of its design and the possibility of combat use by advanced formations of Ground Forces units or special forces groups behind enemy lines: in the minimum configuration, a combat complex based on a loitering munition can include one or two kamikaze UAVs, a wearable launcher (launch tube or catapult) and a portable control station. Nonetheless, Shcherbakov is realistic in his assessment of the Lantset’s limitations. These primarily relate to the small mass of the warhead and “irrecoverable nature” of these UAVs. “If, for some reason, it is not used against the enemy, it must either be transferred to another target, or withdrawn to a safe area to self-destruct. In the latter case, the option of ‘disarming’ is also possible; but all the same, the munition must be diverted for this to a safe area. However, a number of modern samples of such devices, it is said, allow them to be returned by removing the warhead,” Shcherbakov explained.[75] While the UAV/UCAV types in Russia’s Armed Forces are proliferating, the roles assigned to these platforms in future conflicts are also being influenced by the use of such systems in the inventories of foreign militaries.

Additional areas of interest for the diversification and development of Russian UAVs extend to complexes for conducting strikes against enemy forces and targets using compact thermobaric and incendiary munitions. In October 2021, the Russian defense ministry approved plans for new UAVs for the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops (Radiatsionnoy, Khimicheskoy i Biologicheskoy Zashchity—RKhBZ). These will add UAV flamethrower systems to the inventory of the RKhBZ based on small unmanned aircraft or quadcopters. According to Russian military experts, such capabilities could prove useful in urban warfare and also during the destruction of enemy reinforcements. Moscow-based military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy explained their utility: “UAVs will permit the rapid destruction of targets in urban area, and also targets that are hidden in terrain folds or are located in fortifications. They are needed in order to destroy important facilities in the enemy tactical rear.”[76]

According to Murakhovskiy exploiting such systems using incendiary and thermobaric munitions will “permit the minimization of collateral damage during the course of combat operations. Those unmanned aerial vehicles will be invaluable in house-to-house fighting. They will permit us to avoid the destruction of structures, which are not related to the military infrastructure, and to also reduce losses among the peaceful population and servicemen. It is better to lose two drones or robots than one soldier.” Small UAVs such as the latest Lastochka complex were tested in the role of strike UAVs during Zapad 2021. These UAVs dropped anti-personnel and hollow-charge bombs on their targets. Small multi-copters, capable of dropping small bombs with various warheads on targets, are also under development. These hover over a target to achieve greater accuracy. The capability for a hollow-charge bomb to strike a mockup of a tank was confirmed in tests. Flamethrower drones can be used to destroy and ignite larger facilities.[77]

Moreover, Moscow is paying greater attention to measures to counter UAVs. In the September 2021 issue of Armeyskiy Sbornik, the growing role of EW in air defense to counter UAVs is addressed in detail. Colonel M. Mitrofanov, Lieutenant Colonel D. Vasyukov and Major V. Anisimov note the extent to which drones are part of the threat landscape in modern warfare. Referring to the experience of countering UAVs in local conflicts, the authors explain that “when they are airborne, their data transmission channels are visible to signals intelligence and vulnerable to electronic jamming. The data transmission channels include: the operator’s control channel to the drone, the drone’s channel for transmitting data to its control station and the satellite navigation channel.” In this setting the authors introduce the role of EW to target adversary UAVs:

Countering drones does not necessarily mean their physical destruction. Electronic jamming can be used to disable a drone’s data transmission channel, also the channel for controlling it. Apart from disabling the control and data channels, you also need to disable the channel that receives the satellite navigation signals. Satellite data is used not only to plot the drone’s route but also by weapons for target acquisition… Russian electronic warfare developers are actively working on ways of countering drones. For example, at the Dubai Airshow in 2019 the Rosoboronexport corporation displayed the design of a layered defense system that included Russia’s latest counter-drone technologies, such as the Repellent-1, Sapsan Bekas, Kupol, Rubezh Avtomatika, Luch, and Pishchal. Particular attention is also being paid to portable devices for fighting drones. For example, the Luch and Pishchal systems, which can emit electromagnetic signals to disable drones 6 and 2 km away respectively, were displayed for the first time at the Dubai Air Show in 2019. The Pishchal weighs just 3.5 kg and is one of the lightest counter-UAV devices of its class on the market today, so it can form part of a soldier’s personal kit.[78]

Mitrofanov, Vasyukov and Anisimov state that Russian EW manufacturers are developing portable counter-UAV devices, most of which are in the form of a firearm:

They comprise modules for detecting a drone’s radio signals and creating the jamming to disable the control and navigation channels. Among these devices is the Personal Drone Countermeasures Complex made by the Special Technology Center company, which can disable drone control channels from at least 2 km away and radio navigation channels from at least 10 km. Or the Rex 1 and Rex 2 portable counter-UAV systems made by the company Zala Group Unmanned Systems.[79]

These counter-UAV EW devices also work against UAV control and navigation channels. In addition, Russia’s defense industry is working on a variety of means to combat enemy UAVs. The authors summarize the existing methods to counter drones:

  1. Destroy them using air-defense or other fire assets;

  2. Destroy their control stations;

  3. Capture them (with nets or by intercepting their control channels);

  4. Use electro-optical countermeasures (advanced directed-output laser weapons);

  5. Electronically jam their control channels, reconnaissance data transmission channels, or their geopositioning systems;

  6. Distort the navigation coordinates in the vicinity of a protected site.

  7. Conceal protected sites;

  8. Create dummy protected sites (deception).[80]

While initiatives to expand the military use of UAVs beyond ISR to achieve a greater range of capabilities for Russia’s conventional Armed Forces are ongoing, with heavy-strike UCAVs likely to feature increasingly by the mid-2020s, the question remains as to how these advances may change Russian approaches to war fighting. The most likely observable trend is toward more integration and fuller exploitation of such systems in support of the ROS and the RUS. Surprisingly, such approaches harnessing ISR for accuracy of fires was not an inherent feature of Russia’s military operations in the Russia-Ukraine War 2022. However, some Russian military theorists see the potential to further increase the effectiveness of unmanned systems in combat and conceptualize this as a new philosophy on the use of these assets. For example, writing in Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily: Teoriya i Praktika, V.P. Kutakhov, a professor in the National Research Center, Zhukovsky Institute (Moscow), and his colleague A.E. Titov argue that Moscow may be able to harness UAV/UACV assets in conjunction with other technologies to achieve a modern variant of the Revolyutsiya v Voyennom Dele (Revolution in Military Affairs).[81]

In essence, these authors base their argument on the extent to which modern warfare is undergoing constant change. These changes include inter alia: the complexity and intensity of the conduct of hostilities in new conditions (high dynamics of changes in the combat situation, the complexity and transience of the ongoing hostilities), informationization of weapons marked by “rapid growth in the quality of technologies based on AI [artificial intelligence],” recognizing the limits imposed on unmanned capability linked to human operators, and the transition to the conduct of hostilities using UASs in organized groups. In the near future, they add, groups of homogeneous UAVs with intelligent group management within the framework of solving a common (joint) problem will supersede mixed aviation groupings using manned aircraft as its leaders. “AI is by far the most promising direction in the development of control technologies and the use of UAV complexes, which is reflected in many guidance documents,” Kutakhov and Titov assert.[82] This is not about using AI in individual UAV/UCAV platforms. Rather it envisages exploiting AI technologies to apply unmanned systems in large-scale combat groupings.[83]

In the early stages, however, of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine initiated on February 24, 2022, among a range of high-tech capabilities either missing or minimal in the Russian force mix and application of military force was the role of UAV/UCAVs. This partly reflected planning failures, flawed political-military assumptions and how the early period of war was construed by the Russian General Staff. Moreover, it also stemmed from the failure in the very earliest days of the war to establish air superiority/supremacy by the VKS. As the Israeli independent defense analyst Guy Plopsky observed:

The Russians did not appear to exploit the partial success of their initial missile strikes and follow them up with large fixed-wing strike packages. One explanation is that the Russians probably overestimated their own capabilities and underestimated the Ukrainians. They may have believed that their ground forces would be able to seize key objectives swiftly, and that the extensive use of operational-tactical aviation would therefore not be necessary. This is supported by the fact that the opening phase of missile-aviation and artillery attacks that preceded the ground offensive was quite short. Many analysts expected it to be much longer and more intense. The apparent subsequent reluctance to commit large numbers of tactical aircraft may have been due to possible fears of suffering excessive losses, but, with Ukraine’s air defense capabilities increasingly degraded and with Russia committing more forces, there is now, as I noted earlier, increased operational-tactical aviation activity.[84]

 

UAVs and UCAVs: Lessons From Syria and Karabakh

Future priorities in Moscow’s R&D and procurement of UAVs and UCAVs will also be influenced by the General Staff’s assessments of the role played by such systems in the inventories of foreign militaries during recent conflicts. This involves to a large degree Syria, not simply by examining the performance of Russian UASs in the theater of military operations but through paying close attention to how Russian air-defense systems coped with the challenges posed by enemy drones. Particularly, Russia’s military has looked at how successfully Russian air-defense systems were utilized in the hands of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). In 2019, Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky, a professor at the School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, at the IDC Herzliya, in Israel, highlighted the extent to which the Russian General Staff uses Syria to draw operational lessons to apply in the further enhancement of Russia’s military capabilities. In the ISR element of this process, Adamsky reflects on the marked advances made since 2012 to introduce UAVs in greater numbers as well as on their ISR utility in conducting operations in Syria:

Since 2012, the Russian Armed Forces have taken a huge leap forward in the quality and quantity of the UAV fleet. As part of the modernization in this field, the military established 38 new UAV units and detachments, which together operated more than 1,800 drones of various types. The aim was to improve the ability of the forces to conduct ISR missions to a tactical-operational depth of up to 500 kilometers, and to deploy them for the sake of so-called Radio-Electronic Struggle (REB), C2 and strike missions, in frames of the various RS and RF complexes; and to significantly increase the combat capabilities and effectiveness of the general-purpose forces, artillery and operational-tactical aviation. The operation in Syria employed an unprecedented, in terms of types and numbers, fleet of UAVs. On average, at any given moment, 60–70 reconnaissance, strike and radio-electronic suppression UAVs have flown over the theater of operations. All branches have been using UAVs extensively in Syria in order to create reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire contours on the operational and tactical levels. As of this writing, in the midst of the lesson-learning process, the Russian high command does not envision future combat activities for any of the services that would not involve use of UAVs.[85]

Indeed, while the fact that Russia’s General Staff views operational involvement in Syria as a massive learning exercise, with numerous statements from the defense leadership highlighting progress precisely cast in terms of “based on Syria,” this has become the sine qua non of both Russian and Western studies of the conflict.[86] Nonetheless, though the role of UAVs/UCAVs in this theater of military operations has been well documented, as well as the deployment of Russian air-defense systems to protect its assets and facilities in Syria or the use of such systems by the SAA, it has often been a more obscure field of research on the specifics of the conflict.[87]

Analysis of the challenges posed to air-defense systems by drones has certainly drawn attention from Russian air-defense specialists. These military scientists, however, largely tend to downplay or underestimate the extent of the changing nature of the challenge posed by UASs due to a number of factors, not least the evolution in these platforms and continued innovation in their operational usages.[88] Yet given the wide range of UAVs in terms of flight speed and dimensions or mass, it is clear that they present a rather difficult target for existing and in-development Russian air-defense systems. Colonel Mikhail Khodarenok (retired), a Moscow-based military journalist with a background in air defense, notes this is due to the fact that:

  • Until recently, UAVs for various purposes with a launch weight of up to 300 kg–400kg were not included in the nomenclature of air targets;

  • Low flight speeds do not provide reliable target selection and tracking by modern air-defense radars for small UAVs;

  • Kinetic weapons of modern and promising land or maritime and aviation air-defense systems cannot guarantee success against strike UCAVs, especially low-speed and small-sized ones;

  • The use of groups and swarms of strike UAVs/UCAVs significantly reduces the efficiency of modern air defense.[89]

In the period 2018–2020, a growing number of reports in Russian military media and deeper research analyses by air-defense specialists turned attention to the duel between UAVs/UACVs and Russian air-defense systems in Syria. In this setting, the confrontation was between Turkish Bayraktar TB2s and Ankas and the Russian-built Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, which was designed as a cruise missile interceptor. The Bayraktar is a Turkish medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UCAV capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operation. The Anka UAV is a Turkish MALE designed to fulfil surveillance and reconnaissance roles.[90]

Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs have two main types of missions: reconnaissance and strike. For reconnaissance missions, these drones typically fly at an altitude of around 6 km. The Pantsir-S1 radar can detect the Bayraktar TB2 at a horizontal distance of at least 7 km, or, in certain circumstances, up to over 15 km. Nevertheless, the Bayraktar TB2 can perform its ISR roles beyond these distances; at distances of 20 km, the platform can still accurately pinpoint the air-defense system for detection/destruction purposes. Moreover, these UCAVs operated by the Turkish Armed Forces tend to be used in groups and supported by the KORAL and REDET EW complexes. This provision of EW interference decreases the detection range from the radar of the Pantsir-S1 and reduces the probability of correct target designation for its missile-defense system. Consequently, this diminishes the likelihood of striking the Bayraktar TB2 when it operates in the zone of destruction of the Pantsir-S1.[91]

The Bayraktar TB2 also uses the French Picosar mini radar with Active Field Array Radar (AFAR), which also provides additional advantages against the Pantsir-S1: terrain scanning with a resolution of one meter at a distance of 20 km, and at a distance of 14 km the radar offers a resolution of 0.3 m, ensuring the UCAV can detect the location of the Pantsir-S1 and provide target designation to its guided missiles.

During Turkish military operations in Syria, Russian analysts noted the innovative usage of Turkish UAVs/UCAVs against the SAA. These tactics involved the following features:

  • Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs were used in large groups, operating under cover of the heavier Anka reconnaissance UAVs, equipped with radar, as part of their efforts to degrade enemy air defenses;

  • Turkish EW deployed on the Anka UAV almost always succeeded in successfully suppressing the Pantsir-S1 radar, allowing the Bayraktar TB2s to enter the affected area of these air-defense missile systems and successfully attack them.[92]

While these observations concerning the role of Turkish UAVs/UCAVs against the Pantsir-S1 in Syria offer sobering insights for Russian air-defense planning, it appears that Russia’s Armed Forces leadership may be deducing lessons from the course of the Karabakh war in 2020. This also featured a similar UAV/UCAV duel with the Russian-supplied air-defense systems to Armenia. In the fall of 2020, the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Karabakh was characterized by the large-scale use of UAVs/UCAVs by Azerbaijan to destroy the weapons and manpower of Armenia’s Armed Forces. The Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, equipped with laser-guided Smart Micro Ammunition (MAM) air bombs, along with Israeli Heron TP, Hermes 4507, Sky Striker and Harop UAVs, entered service in Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces prior to the start of the conflict. Azerbaijan, in a joint venture with Israel, had also fielded Aerostar, Orbiter-1K and Orbiter-3 drones. Armenia’s air defense in the territory of occupied Karabakh was provided with the tactical Osa and Strela air-defense systems, designed to counter aircraft and helicopters. In this context, Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces mounted large-scale attacks using UAVs/UCAVs, for which Armenian forces were unprepared to counter.[93] The resulting overwhelming air superiority rapidly achieved by Azerbaijan’s forces in Karabakh had a decisive impact on the course of the conflict.

In an analysis of these developments in the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Karabakh, written by Ilya Afonin, Sergei Makarenko, Sergei Petrov and Aleksandr Privalov[94] and published in 2020 in Sistemy Upravleniya, Svyazi i Bezopasnosti, the authors argue that the large-scale exploitation of unmanned systems in these examples proved the case that local air defenses were unable to cope.[95] This was the culmination of a series of articles examining recent developments in air defense and UAV/UCAVs based on recent conflicts.[96] However, their 2020 study provides analytical support for the assertion that the tide had turned in favor of advanced UAVs/UCAVs against Russian air-defense systems. Their findings are best illustrated in Table 1.[97]

Military Conflict Destruction Rate: Air Defense to UAV
Syria, 2017–2019 1 Air-Defense System: 5 UAVs
Libya, 2019 1 Air-Defense System: 2.8 UAVs
Karabakh, 2020 2.25 Air Defense Systems: 1 UAV

Table 1: Approximate Indicators of the Average Ratio of the Number of Destroyed UAVs to the Number of Destroyed Air-Defense Missile Systems[98]

The full significance of the study and its findings were noticed within only a few months by three prominent researchers in the Combined-Arms Academy in Moscow. They argue that profound changes are required to Russian Ground Forces tactics, particularly driven by the Second Karabakh War. In November 2021, in Voyennaya Mysl’, Colonel (Reserve) Pavel Dulnev (professor and chief researcher in the Research Center for Systemic Operational-Tactical Research of the Ground Forces at the Ground Forces Combined-Arms Academy in Moscow), Colonel Sergei Sychev (professor of the Department of Tactics in the Combined-Arms Academy), and Colonel Andrei Garvardt (associate professor and deputy head of the Department of Tactics in the Combined-Arms Academy) published Osnovnyye napravleniya razvitiya taktiki Sukhoputnykh voysk (po opytu vooruzhennogo konflikta v Nagornom Karabakhe), (The Main Trends of Development of Ground Forces Tactics (According to the Experience of the Military Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh)).[99] The article and its observations about the use of unmanned systems in the conflict draws heavily upon the earlier work by Afonin, Makarenko, Petrov and Privalov.

In their Voyennaya Mysl’ article, Dulnev, Sychev and Garvardt note the main characteristic features of the 2020 Karabakh war:

  • The conduct of hostilities in mountainous terrain in directions accessible to the movement of armored fighting vehicles, which to a large extent limited the maneuver by forces and means and excluded surprise;

  • A significant difference in the level of equipment of military units with modern means of armaments and, accordingly, the combat capabilities of the opposing sides;

  • Large-scale use of reconnaissance-fire and reconnaissance-strike complexes, formed on the basis of the widespread use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS);

  • The creation of artillery groups intended for fire damage of the enemy in the directions of the decisive attacks of units by combined arms and services;

  • Widespread use of UASs equipped with light weapons and designed to infiltrate the depths of enemy defenses to conduct active hostilities;

  • Raiding operations of special-purpose units for capturing heights, road junctions in order to destroy the advancing enemy reserves;

  • The use of blocking groups and attack groups, operating on foot with the support of artillery fire and UAS strikes, with the task of capturing enemy defended posts;

  • Wide involvement of various kinds of irregular formations, including other states, operating on high mobility wheeled vehicles, in order to destroy the security posts, outposts and develop the offensive.[100]

On this basis, the authors deduce a series of tactical trends “to develop recommendations for improving the combat methods of the combined arms and services, military units and subdivisions.” (Figure 2).

 

 

In relation to the first tactical trend the authors explain:

The expansion of the use of means of armed fight, created on the basis of technologies of military robotics,[101] artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, as well as weapons based on new physical principles and the increase in their influence on the course and outcome of hostilities was especially clearly manifested in terms of the introduction of UASs, which in their evolution reached the level allowing to combine real combat effectiveness with relative simplicity and affordability.

Taking into account this trend, the army tactics were faced with the urgent task of developing forms and methods of joint and independent actions of tactical UASs, as well as combating enemy unmanned aviation in conditions of its massive use. In the short term, this task will also be relevant in relation to GBRS of various functional purposes, which by now in their evolution are reaching the line of serial industrial production.[102]

Turning to The tendency to increase the role of reliable protection of troops from attacks by enemy air attack means,[103] and in the future from missile strikes, should be especially taken into account when conducting hostilities with an enemy with a strong air component, which, along with manned aircraft, includes reconnaissance-fire and reconnaissance-strike complexes,” the authors offer the following suggested developments:

To combat them, it is required to create a well-prepared jamproof network of air-defense systems within the army tactical level, well protected from strikes by the forces and means of the enemy’s aerospace assault weapons. It should be comprehensive—anti-aircraft, anti-missile and anti-satellite. In addition, in its composition, it is advisable, in our opinion, to envisage the use of tactical UASs (robotic means), which can be especially effective for destroying small air targets at low altitudes, including by setting up anti-aircraft ambushes in hard-to-reach terrain.[104]

The authors concluded their analysis by proposing changes to Russian combat tactics as follows:

Promising methods of combat operations by military formations of the army forces should, in our opinion, be characterized by the following main features:[105]

  • Disorganization of the enemy’s efforts by the use of the latest weapons against critical targets, the defeat of its main forces in a short time by the synchronized actions of assault;
  • Raid, reconnaissance and search and outflanking detachments, as well as tactical airborne assault forces operating in an expanded battlefield;
  • Organization of effective air-defense systems and tactical camouflage, providing reliable cover for troops from attacks by enemy air attack;
  • Realization of advantages in the speed of implementation of the “reconnaissance-defeat” cycle, situational awareness, organization and maintenance of interaction of various (heterogeneous) forces and means, as well as in resistance to the influence of unfavorable factors of the security situation;
  • Supplementing the capabilities of army forces with the use of GBRS of various functional purposes, especially when performing tasks associated with a predictably high level of losses;
  • The formation of new order-of-battle elements, taking into account the specific conditions of the security situation, providing for the possibility of redistributing tasks between them during combat operations in real time on the basis of actual data about the state of each weapon, the status of completed and assigned tasks, as well as taking into account the results of operational modeling options for the development of the operation;
  • Increasing the survivability of individual means due to the possibility of exchanging data about the enemy within subunits in the event of failure or suppression of any subsystems (communication with the command post, navigation, target designation, etc.);
  • Organization of an effective system for all-out support for the actions of army forces.[106]

As a result of the application of UAVs/UCAVs in large-scale groups in conflicts including Syria and Karabakh, Russian air-defense and army specialists have not only taken notice of these advances, but recognized that this has serious implications for the future of Russian tactical air-defense systems.[107] The vulnerabilities of tactical Russian air-defense systems—including the Pantsir-S1—were plainly and mercilessly exposed by the concerted deployment and use of UAVs and UCAVs for reconnaissance-strike and strike purposes in these conflicts. Of course, as seen in the zonal layered defense at the Russian Khmeimim airbase near Latakia in Syria, this did not rely exclusively upon kinetic means of air defense but also involved EW systems, used in repelling terrorist UAV swarm attacks against the base in January 2018.

What should be noted is that the insights offered by reference to the conflict in Karabakh in 2020 has resulted in an appeal by senior researchers in the Combined-Arms Academy in Moscow to make fresh changes to Ground Forces tactics for force protection in future conflicts, among other suggested improvements; they do not argue that these developments primarily influence the long-term development of Russia’s UAV/UCAV modernization programs.[108] However, given the extent of General Staff attention to the lessons drawn from such conflicts it is remarkable to observe the lack of focus to air defense in the Russia-Ukraine War in 2022; Russian military theorists, air-defense specialists and senior officers were well aware of the dangers posed to their forces by the Turkish supplied Bayraktar TB2s. As Guy Plopsky noted, “The Russians are well aware of the threat posed by UAVs and the need to counter them. Their military journals are filled with articles on this and related topics. That said, there has always been a large gap between theory and practice in the Russian military, even though Russian air defenses do train to intercept UAVs.”[109]

 

Conclusion

Russia’s Armed Forces have made considerable progress in addressing the historical trough its defense industry and force development experienced in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. One important feature of this temporary development gap was ignoring the trends in modern warfare toward greater exploitation of unmanned aerial systems. In the wake of the reform program in late 2008, early steps were taken to remedy this by procuring UAVs from Israel for domestic production under license. Within a relatively short period, Moscow has promoted this element of its military modernization by facilitating the flourishing of domestic companies specializing in UASs, harnessing the R&D capacity and steadily introducing unmanned assets in larger numbers to boost capabilities throughout its Armed Forces.[110]

These processes occurred during a period of sustained modernization marking a shift toward a force structure built around C4ISR. UAV procurement has been weighted heavily in favor of ISR; a process that has benefited from testing and refinements during earlier operations in Ukraine and Syria. Such theaters of military conflict provided testing grounds for the General Staff to study and draw lessons from the role and potential utility of UASs. The longer-term UAS strategy, slowed by the internal challenges facing the domestic defense industry, lies in achieving an optimal balance between UAVs for ISR roles on the one hand, and those designed for reconnaissance-strike and strike missions, such as heavy-strike UCAVs, on the other hand.[111]

It should be noted that these aims and the high-profile testing of the S-70 Okhotnik pre-date the 2020 Second Karabakh War; the lessons drawn from the under-performance of Russian-built tactical air-defense systems fielded by Armenia in that conflict, exposed by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces’ use of UAV and UACV reconnaissance-strike and strike systems in conjunction with EW, did not change the course of Russian UAS priorities or planning.[112] No evidence exists that the General Staff drew lessons from Karabakh that either influenced or sped up the existing programs to develop Russian reconnaissance-strike and aerial strike systems.

The Karabakh war in 2020 did, however, confirm and consolidate Russian military thinking in relation to these systems. Also notable is the fact that the future entry into service of the S-70 envisages that this platform will use unguided munitions—placing the Russian military in a tiny minority of global armed forces that utilize UCAV platforms to deliver unguided strikes against enemy targets.[113] The slowness in the S-70 Okhotnik prototypes to progress from R&D and testing phases may reflect issues with engine design or the vision to tie its operational role to the Su-57. However, the presence of multiple foreign components in downed Russian UAVs in southeastern Ukraine suggests that the domestic defense industry is continuing to struggle to achieve fuller self-reliance, despite what official defense ministry statements claim.[114]

Surprisingly, the real lessons for Russia’s General Staff based on analyses of the Second Karabakh War are more likely to result in further changes to Ground Forces tactics, as noted by Dulnev, Sychev and Garvardt in their November 2021 article in Voyennaya Mysl’.[118] Indeed, such articles in the professional military publications provide strong evidence that the General Staff is thinking about the evolving role of unmanned systems, aerial, ground-based and sea or sub-surface-based types, how these may boost military capabilities and complement Russian military strategy, or fit into emerging perspectives on the future battlespace.[119]

At the operational and tactical levels, Russian military operations during the early phase of its large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 involved numerous errors and miscalculations. Equally, it appears that Russian operational design was not centered upon the exploitation of high-tech military capabilities, and this extended to the limited, sporadic and ineffectual use of UAV and UCAV platforms. However, UAVs and UCAVs in Russian military thought cover a broad and growing range of issues, including automation of C2, introducing more AI technologies, using unmanned systems on the offensive, countering adversary systems and the challenges presented to tactical air defense.[120] While future Russian UAV/UCAV capabilities may not constitute in and of themselves a new variant of the revolution in military affairs, they do mark a consistent trend in Russian military thought that traces its origins to Ogarkov’s RMA.

 

Appendix 1: Russia’s National Developers and Manufacturers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

 

No.    Developer, Manufacturer

1          Tupolev, PJSC, Moscow

2          A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau, OJSC, Moscow

3          Irkut Scientific-Production Corporation, JSC, Moscow

4          MiG Russian Aircraft Corporation, JSC, Moscow

5          Sukhoi Design Bureau, PJSC, Moscow

6          Vega Concern, OJSC, Moscow

7          Rostech State Corporation, Moscow

8          SRI Kulon, JSC, Moscow

9          ARCC Novik-XXI Century, LLC, Moscow

10        Modernization of Aviation Complexes, LLC, Moscow

11        R&DC Rissa, CJSC, Moscow

12        Impulse, Moscow

13        Research and Production Firm Kvand-ASHM, CJSC, Moscow

14        SKB Topaz, OJSC, Moscow

15        Research Institute of Applied Mechanics named after Academician V.I. Kuznetsov, Moscow

16        R&D Company Tayber, Moscow

17        Air Group, LLC, Moscow

18        Aviation Systems, SPA, Moscow

19        VR-Technologies, LLC, Moscow

20        YuVS Avia, LLC, Moscow

21        Aerospace systems, OJSC, Moscow

22        AFM-Service, LLC, Moscow

23        Nelk SPC, CJSC, Moscow

24        RTI Systems Concern, Moscow

25        DanFuture, Moscow

26        Aeroxo, Moscow

27        Blaskor, LLC, Moscow

28        Promtechnology, LLC, Moscow

29        Skolkovo Innovation Center, Moscow

30        AeroRobotics, LLC, Moscow

31        MAI’s Iskatel Design Office, Moscow

32        Moscow Aviation Institute

33        Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography

34        Kamov, JSC, Moscow region

35        Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, JSC, Moscow region

36        S.A. Lavochkin SPA, LLC, Khimki

37        Experimental Machine-Building Plant named after V.M. Myasishchev, JSC Zhukovsky

38        Aerokon, JSC, Zhukovsky

39        Istra Experimental Mechanical Plant, LLC, Moscow region

40        SPC Antigrad-Avia, LLC, Dubna

41        Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation, JSC, Korolev

42        Radar-MMS R&D Company, JSC, St. Petersburg

43        Special Technological Center, LLC, St. Petersburg

44        Transas, CJSC, St. Petersburg

45        Kronshtadt JSC, St. Petersburg

46        Kronshtadt Technologies, JSC, St. Petersburg

47        Plaza, LLC, St. Petersburg

48        Geoscan, LLC, St. Petersburg

49        Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation

50        Sokol Experimental Design Bureau, OJSC, Kazan

51        M.P. Simonov Design Bureau, SPA, Kazan

52        Enix, CJSC, Kazan

53        Kazan National Research Technical University

54        ZALA AERO GROUP Unmanned systems, LLC, Izhevsk

55        Izhmash-Unmanned Systems, LLC, Izhevsk

56        Izhevsk Unmanned Systems SPA, LLC, Izhevsk

57        Multipurpose Unmanned Systems, Izhevsk

58        Autonomous Aerospace Systems – Geoservice R&D, LLC, Krasnoyarsk

59        Aviamekhanika R&D, LLC, Krasnoyarsk

60        Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk

61        Luch Design Bureau, JSC, Rybinsk

62        Ricor Electronics, OJSC, Arzamas

63        Ural Civil Aviation Plant, JSC, Yekaterinburg

64        Smolensk Research and Innovation Center of Electronic Systems Zavant

65        Horizont, JSC, Rostov-on-Don

66        Stilsoft, LLC, Stavropol

67        Roboavia Unmanned Systems, LLC, Voronezh

68        Samara National Research University

69        Southern Federal University, Taganrog

70        Omsk State Technical University

 

Notes:

[1] Ananyev, A.V, Rybalko, A.G, Filatov, S.V, Lazorak, A.V, ‘BPLA v sostave aviatsionnykh formirovaniy,’ Arsenal Otechestva, No.5, 2020, pp.70–76. The author wishes to express his gratitude to the following individuals for reviewing and commenting on an earlier draft of this paper: Charles K. Bartles, Dara Massicot, Nicholas Myers, Guy Plopsky, Carolina Vendil Pallin and Vasily Zatsepin.

[2] In the Russian military lexicon Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are denoted as Bespilotnyye Letatel’nyye Apparaty (BLA/BPLA) or Shock/Strike Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles are referred to as Udarnyye Bespilotnyye Letatel’nyye Apparaty (UBLA). However, for simplicity throughout this paper the English acronyms will be used: UAV and UCAV.

[3] Radioelektronnaya bor’ba v Vooruzhennykh Silakh Rossiyskoy Federatsii – 2019, http://reb.informost.ru/2019/index.php.

[4] V.B. Zarudnitskiy, ‘Faktory dostizheniya pobedy v voyennykh konfliktakh budushchego,’ Voyennaya Mysl’, No. 8, 2021, pp, 34–47.

[5] Anton Lavrov, ‘Bespilotnaya gonka,’ Izvestia, https://iz.ru/627546/anton-lavrov/rossiia-proigryvaet-bespilotnuiu-gonku, August 25, 2017.

[6] Karpenko, A.V, ‘Bespilotnyy letatel’nyy apparat Feniks,’ Voyenno-Tekhnicheskiy Sbornik Bastion, http://bastion-karpenko.ru/phoenix-bla, No.11, 2019.

[7] Ivanov Yu.L, (Ed), Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty: sostoyaniye i tendentsii razvitiya, Moscow, LA Varyag, 2004.

[8] Kuznetsov G.A, Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty s porshnevymi dvigatelyami: istoriya sozdaniya, primeneniye i perspektivy razvitiya, Nauchnoye Obozreniye, No. 2010, pp. 40–45; Vilkova N.N, (Ed), Sukhachev, A.B, Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty: sostoyaniye i perspektivy razvitiya, Moscow, MNITI, 2007.

[9] Pavlushenko, M.I, Yevstafev, G.M, Makarenko, I.K, Natsional’naya i global’naya bezopasnost’. Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty: istoriya, primeneniye, ugroza rasprostraneniya i perspektivy razvitiya, Moscow, Prava cheloveka, 2005.

[10] Matusevich, A.N, Sovetskiye bespilotnyye samoletyazvedchiki pervogo pokoleniya, Moscow, AST, Minsk, Kharvest, 2002; Ganin, S.M, Karpenko A.V., Kolnogorov V.V., Petrov G.F, Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty, St.Petersburg, Nevskiy bastion, 1999.

[11] Ivanov, M.S, (Ed), Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty. Spravochnoye posobiye, VUNTS VVS VVA. Voronezh, Nauchaya kniga, 2015; Badekha, V.A, (Ed), Bespilotnyye aviatsionnyye sistemy. Sovremennoye so- stoyaniye i opyt primeneniya, Moscow, Pero, 2014; Fetisov, V.S, (Ed), Bespilotnaya aviatsiya: terminologiya, klassifikatsiya, sovremennoye sostoyaniye, Ufa, Foton, 2014.

[12] Colonel (ret.) S. G. Chekinov, Lieutenant-General (ret.) S. A. Bogdanov, “Priroda i soderzhaniye voyny novogo pokoleniya,” Voyennaya Mysl’, No. 10, 2013, pp. 13–24; V. I. Slipchenko, Voyna Budushchego, Scientific Reports edition 88 (Moscow: Social Science Foundation), 1999.

[13] Pavlushenko, M.I, Yevstafev, G.M, Makarenko, I.K, Natsional’naya i global’naya bezopasnost’. Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty: istoriya, primeneniye, ugroza rasprostraneniya i perspektivy razvitiya, Op.Cit.

[14] These were the U-1, TB-1, U-2, UT-1 and TB-3.

[15] These were the Yak-9V, La-17, La-17A, La-17M, MiG-15M, MiG-15bisM, M-17M, M-17F, Yak-25MSh and the Yak-25RV. Bychkov, V.N, Letopis’ aviatsii i vozdukhoplavaniya, Moscow, Academia, 2006. 

[16] These were: Tu-123 Yastreb, La-17R, La-17RM, La-17MM, La-17K, M-19, M-21, Il-28M, Tu-4M, Tu-16M, Tu-141 Strizh, Tu-143 Reys, with further development in the late Soviet period of the Pchela-60S, Pchela-1T, Krylo-1, Tu-243 Reys-D, Ye-85, Shmel’-1, R-90 and Tu-300 Korshun. Yankevich, Yu, Bespilotnyye razvedchiki OKB A.S. Yakovleva. Obshcherossiyskiy nauchno-tekhnicheskiy zhurnal Polet, No.3, 2000,  pp.25–31; Makarov, Yu.V, Letatel’nyye apparaty MAI, Moscow, Izd-vo MAI, 1994.

[17] Vasilin, N.Ya, Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty, Minsk, Popurri, 2003.

[18] Henrik Olsen Nordal, “Thinking of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA): Towards a Common Understanding of RMA,” Master’s Thesis, University of Oslo, 2013.

[19] See: Carolina Vendil Pallin, Russian Military Reform: A Failed Exercise in Defence Decision Making, Routledge, 2008.

[20] Fetisov, V.S, (Ed), Bespilotnaya aviatsiya: terminologiya, klassifikatsiya, sovremennoye sostoyaniye, Op.Cit.

[21] Ivan Zhukovskiy, ‘Bespilotnik-smertnik: Kalashnikov pokazal miru novinku,’ Gazeta.ru, https://www.gazeta.ru/army/2019/02/17/12190375.shtml?updated, February 17, 2019.

[22] Mikhail Khodarenok, ‘Vperedi dazhe Turtsiya: Rossiya prospala bespilotnuyu revolyutsiyu,’ Gazeta.ru, https://www.gazeta.ru/army/2020/10/31/13340929.shtml, November 1, 2020.

[23] Yerokhin, Ye, ‘Armeyskiye bespilotniki. BLA rossiyskikh Vooruzhennykh sil na forume Armiya-2017,’ Vzlet, No.11-12, 2017, pp.20–23; Fetisov, Bespilotnaya aviatsiya: terminologiya, klassifikatsiya, sovremennoye sostoyaniye, Op.Cit.

[24] G.A. Kuznetsov, I.V. Kudryavtsev, Ye.D, Krylov, ‘Retrospektivnyy analiz, sovremennoye sostoyaniye i tendentsii razvitiya otechestvennykh bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov,’ Inzhenernyy Zhurnal: Nauka i Innovatsii, No. 9, 2018, pp.1-22.

[25] V.V. Frolov, ‘Sostoyaniye, zadachi i funktsii gosudarstvennogo tsentra bespilotnoy aviatsii ministerstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii,’ Bodrova, A.S, Bezdenezhnykh, S.I, Yashina, A.V, Yarygina N.S, (Eds), Perspektivy razvitiya i primeneniya kompleksov s bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami, Kolomna, 2016, pp-8-9.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Russian Defense Ministry, https://mil.ru/924gcba/stucture/cibpviba.htm, Accessed December 12, 2021.

[28] Frolov, ‘Sostoyaniye, zadachi i funktsii gosudarstvennogo tsentra bespilotnoy aviatsii ministerstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii,’ Op.Cit.

[29]Sborka BLA Forpost i Zastava na UZGA,’ Bmpd.livejournal.com, https://bmpd.livejournal.com/658798.html, November 13, 2013; A. Sokov, ‘Novoye serdtse dlya razvedyvatel’nogo Forposta’, Oruzhiye Rossii, January 9, 2020, ‘Kontrakt na postavku BLA Forpost-R i sozdaniye tyazhelogo BLA Altius-RU,’ Bmpd.livejournal.com, https://bmpd.livejournal.com/3925235.html, February 7, 2020; Yu. Shepovalenko (Ed), Siriyskiy Rubezh, 2nd ed, Moscow: Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, 2016.

[30] Fetisov, Bespilotnaya aviatsiya: terminologiya, klassifikatsiya, sovremennoye sostoyaniye, Op.Cit.

[31] Yerokhin, Ye, ‘Armeyskiye bespilotniki. BLA rossiyskikh Vooruzhennykh sil na forume Armiya-2017,’ Vzlet, No.11-12, 2017, pp.20–23.

[32]Putin nazval chislo nakhodyashchikhsya na vooruzhenii rossiyskoy armii bespilotnikov,’ Izvestia, https://iz.ru/1244385/2021-11-02/putin-nazval-chislo-nakhodiashchikhsia-na-vooruzhenii-rossiiskoi-armii-bespilotnikov, November 2, 2021. In December 2018, Shoigu stated that more than “2,100” UAVs had entered service and that the defense industry had made sufficient progress on advanced reconnaissance and strike UCAV drones to permit procurement to commence. “The creation of unmanned, reconnaissance, medium-range attack complexes is coming to an end. From next year, they must begin to reach the troops. Each year, as part of the fulfillment of the state defense order, the troops will receive more than 300 medium-range and short-range [drone] aircraft,” Shoigu asserted. ‘Shoigu: armiya s 2019 goda nachnet poluchat’ razvedyvate’no-udarnyye bespilotniki,’ TASS, https://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/5926445, December 18, 2018.

[33] Aleksandr Tikhonov, ‘Bespilotniki nabirayut vysotu. I ves,’ Krasnaya Zvezda, http://redstar.ru/bespilotniki-nabirayutvysotu-i-ves/, February 12, 2021.

[34] Aleksei Ramm, ‘Kuda letit bespilotnaya aviatsiya,’ Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://nvo.ng.ru/armament/2021-01-21/1_1125_aviation.html, January 21, 2021.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Anton Lavrov, ‘Bespilotniki pomogayut nam porazhat’ tseli v rezhime real’nogo vremeni,’ Izvestia, https://iz.ru/1251874/anton-lavrov/bespilotniki-pomogaiut-nam-porazhat-tceli-v-rezhime-realnogo-vremeni, November 19, 2021.

[38] Anan’yev, A.V, Filatov, S.V, ‘Obosnovaniye neobkhodimosti sozdaniya mezhvidovogo razvedyvatel’no udarnogo kompleksa bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov malogo klassa dlya aviatsionnogo formirovaniya,’ Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily: Teoriya i Praktika, No.13, 2020.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Moiseyev, G.V, Moiseyev, V.S, Osnovy teorii sozdaniya i primeneniya imitatsionnykh bespilotnykh aviatsionnykh kompleksov, Monografiya. – Kazan’: RTS MKO, 2013; Kozar, A.N, Moiseyev, V.S, Informatsionnyye tekhnologii optimal’nogo primeneniya upravlyayemykh artilleriyskikh snaryadov, Monografiya, – RTS MKO, 2012; Borzov G.Ye, Kozar, A.N, Moiseyev, V.S, Primeneniye bespilotnykh razvedyvatel’no-korrektirovochnykh vertoletov v perspektivnykh kompleksakh avtomatizirovannogo upravleniya ognem artillerii takticheskogo zvena, Nauchnoye izdaniye, Kazanskoye vyssheye voyennoye komandnoye uchilishche (voyennyy institut), 2009.

[41] Makarenko, S.I, Ivanov, M.S, Setetsentricheskaya voyna – printsipy, tekhnologii, primery i perspektivy, Monografiya – SPb: Naukoyemkiye tekhnologii, St.Petersburg, 2018. pp-149-150.

[42] Aleksei Ramm, Bogdan Stepovoi, ‘Drony v beskozyrkakh,’ Izvestiya, https://iz.ru/732935/aleksei-ramm-bogdan-stepovoi/bezliudnyi-flot, April 24, 2018,

[43] V.A, Agamalyan, Lapshin, P.L, ‘Razrabotka i ispytaniya kompleksov s BLA,’ Bodrova, A.S, Bezdenezhnykh, S.I, (Eds), Perspektivy razvitiya i primeneniya kompleksov s bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami. Sbornik nauchnykh dokladov i statey po materialam II Nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii, Kolomna, 2017, pp.13-14.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Agamalyan, Lapshin,‘Razrabotka i ispytaniya kompleksov s BLA,’ Op.Cit, p.15.

[47] Khodarenok, ‘Vperedi dazhe Turtsiya: Rossiya prospala bespilotnuyu revolyutsiyu,’ Op.Cit; Frolov, ‘Sostoyaniye, zadachi i funktsii gosudarstvennogo tsentra bespilotnoy aviatsii ministerstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii,’ Op.Cit; ‘Putin nazval chislo nakhodyashchikhsya na vooruzhenii rossiyskoy armii bespilotnikov,’ Op.Cit; Ramm, ‘Kuda letit bespilotnaya aviatsiya,’ Op.Cit; Agamalyan, Lapshin, ‘Razrabotka i ispytaniya kompleksov s BLA,’ Op.Cit; Koziratskiy, A.Yu, Kapitanov, V.V, Sudarikov, G.I, ‘Vozmozhnosti primeneniya vertoletov armeyskoy aviatsii pri nanesenii aviatsionnogo udara,’ Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily. Teoriya i Praktika, No.5, 2018, pp.99–104.

[48] ‘Weapons of the War in Ukraine’, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), November 2021., pp.130-146.

[49] According to the CAR website: “CAR comprises a group of companies. Its parent company, Conflict Armament Research Ltd (CAR – UK), is a for-profit entity, registered in England and Wales in 2011. CAR has since incorporated various entities to implement regionally focused areas of activity, including: Conflict Armament Research – Support Ltd. (CAR UK – Support), established in 2016. Conflict Armament Research BV (CAR – EU), established in 2018. Conflict Armament Research US – Support Inc. (CAR US – Support), established in 2021.” The company “supplements formal weapon tracing with analysis of physical evidence gathered from the weapons themselves and that of related materiel; obtaining government, commercial, transport, and other documents; and interviewing individuals with knowledge or experience of the equipment transfers under scrutiny. CAR does not undertake undercover work or use other clandestine investigation methods. For privacy reasons, CAR’s publications do not refer to private individuals by name, except in the case of well-known public officials. Unless specified, no reference to the names of countries of manufacture, manufacturing companies, intermediary parties, distributors, or intended end users implies illegality or wrongdoing on the part of that named entity.” Conflict Armament Research (CAR), https://www.conflictarm.com/methodology/, Accessed on November 24, 2021.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57]Forpost i Zastava na UZGA,’ Op.Cit.

[58]Rossiiskii BPLA Orlan-10 sostoit’ iz detalei proizvodstva SShA i drugikh stran – fotootchet,’ POLITua, https://politua.org/novosti/34865-rossijskij-bpla-orlan-10-sostoit-iz-deta/, January 31, 2018.

[59] Zaydullin, S.S, Moiseyev, V.S, Matematicheskiye modeli i metody upravleniya territorial’no raspredelènnymi sistemami, Kazan: Master Line, 2005.

[60] Yerokhin Ye, ‘Debyut Oriona,’ Vzlet, No.9-10, 2017, pp.30–34; Yerokhin Ye, ‘Vertolety Rossii pokazali novyy bespilotnik,’ Vzlet, No.9-10, 2017, p.12.

[61] Ibid.

[62] “Anticipated to serve as a ‘loyal wingman’, the stealthy drone incorporates a flying wing design, while its composite fuselage is covered with […] radar-absorbing paint. It is designed to offer a lower radar cross-section. Powered by an AL-31 turbojet engine, the UCAV can be installed with electro-optical targeting, communication, and reconnaissance payloads. With the maximum take-off weight of 20 [tons], the Okhotnik-B combat drone is significantly bigger than its Western counterparts such as Dassault nEUROn and Northrop Grumman X-47B. The length and wingspan of the Hunter UCAV are 14m and 20m, respectively. The attack drone features two internal weapon bays to accommodate up to 2,000kg of guided and unguided munitions, including air-to-surface missiles and bombs. It is expected to fly at a speed of 1,000km/h and attain a maximum range of 6,000km.” ‘Russia’s top long-range attack drones,’ Air Force Technology, https://www.airforce-technology.com/features/russias-top-long-range-attack-drones/, November 27, 2020.

[63] “With its dorsal inlet and V-shape tail, Russia’s long-range attack drone bears a striking resemblance to the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle. The Grom combat UAV measures 13.8m-long and 3.8m-high while its wingspan is 10m. The drone has a maximum take-off weight of 7t and can carry a maximum payload of 2,000kg. It has four hard-points including two under the wing consoles and two inside the fuselage. It can carry Izdeliye 85, KAB-250-LG-E, KAB-500S-E, and X-38MLE munitions. The stealthy drone can fly at a cruise speed of 800km/h and reach a maximum altitude of 12,000m. It has a maximum speed of approximately 1,000km/h, while the combat radius of the UAV is 700km.” Ibid.

[64] “The Altius-U MALE UAV made its first flight in August 2019. It flew for 32 minutes at a maximum altitude of 800m in fully autonomous mode. The drone is expected to perform reconnaissance, strike and electronic attack missions for the Russian Air Force and Navy. The fixed-wing design of the unmanned aerial vehicle incorporates a large high-mounted wing, a V-tail configuration and a three-leg retractable landing gear. Built using the composite materials, Altius is powered by two new VK-800C turboprop engines developed by the Klimov Design Bureau. The 7t drone can carry 2t of combat payload, including a family of Grom 9-A-7759 gliding bombs which can engage targets at a distance of 120km. The drone can target headquarters, radars, missile and air defence units and land-based cruise missile launchers while supporting low-intensity conflicts and counter-terrorism operations.” Ibid.

[65] “A full-size mock-up of the 5t drone was presented for the first time at the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Salon held at Zhukovsky International Airport near Moscow, Russia. It was also on display at the Army-2020 international military-technical forum held in August 2020. The long-range reconnaissance and attack drone will have a length of 9m and a height of 3.3m. It will also feature a satellite communications complex, allowing it to perform long-range reconnaissance and combat missions. The drone will have the capacity to carry a maximum combat load of 450kg, allowing it to carry guided bombs or air-to-ground missiles. It will cruise at a speed of 295km/h and fly at an altitude of 12,000m. The endurance of the Sirius UAV with full payload will be 40 hours.” Ibid.

[66] “The fixed-wing design of the Orion drone integrates V-shaped tail fins. The drone is made of carbon plastic composite materials to reduce the weight of fuselage. It is also equipped with an electric impulse anti-icing system for operation in low temperatures. The drone can carry four guided bombs or four missiles, including the KAB-50 bombs and UPAB-50S 50kg guided munitions. The UPAB-50S missile can strike personnel and objects at a maximum distance of 30km. It can be attached with high-explosive (HE) fragmentation, cluster, and fuel-air explosive warhead types. The combat UAV is also installed with a new weapon guidance system. The Orion UAV has a maximum speed of 200km/h while its maximum flight duration with the standard payload is 24 hours. Orion-E, the export version, has a maximum take-off weight of 1,000kg and can carry a 200kg payload, including four 50kg or two 100kg munitions.” Ibid.

[67] Anton Valagin, ‘Klyuchevuyu osobennost’ drona S-70 Okhotnik pokazali na video,’ Rossiyskaya Gazeta, https://rg.ru/2021/10/10/kliuchevuiu-osobennost-drona-s-70-ohotnik-pokazali-na-video.html, October 10, 2021.

[68] A version of the AL-41F1 engine for the Su-57 is installed on the Okhotnik. The UACV has only one engine, which imposes special requirements for its reliability. The applied systems allow its engine to work even in the event of a complete failure of its automation—it will simply go to idle speed, according to Sergei Vakushin, the chief designer of UEC-UMPO for products at the P. Lyul’ka Design Bureau. Ibid.

[69]Rossiyskiy udarnyy bespilotnik S-70 stanet nezametnym dlya vraga,’ Topwar.ru, October 19, 2021; ‘Rakety Su-57 raznesut lyuboy natovskiy korabl’ v kloch’ya,’ VPK-news.ru, https://vpk-news.ru/news/64284, October 18, 2021.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Viktor Kuzovkov, ‘Kopiya protiv originala: chem nash dron Orion ustupayet amerikanskomu originalu,’ Newizv.ru, https://newizv.ru/news/tech/30-10-2020/kopiya-protiv-originala-chem-nash-dron-orion-ustupaet-amerikanskomu-originalu, October 30, 2020.

[72] A unique feature of the Lantset is the x-shaped aerodynamic tail configuration. In June 2019, on the eve of the Army-2019 forum, the Kalashnikov concern presented a more improved version of the Kub UAV: the Lantset. The Lantset-1 and Lantset-3 are reportedly capable of carrying payloads of up to 3 kilograms. “The double-x is our absolute know-how. When diving and maneuvering, such a scheme behaves much better; besides, the dimensions of the product are greatly reduced,” according to Alexander Zakharov, the general director of the weapons design studio Zala Aero. He added, “We also managed to reduce the weight, which is only 12 kg due to the maximum use of plastic and composites in the structure.” Moreover, the Lantset UAV is highly accurate in terms of precision-strike capability, with a video communication channel aiding guidance. According to Rostec, “The complex includes not only a striking element, but also a reconnaissance, navigation and communication module. It is able to determine coordinates from various sources and objects. So the fundamental difference between the Lantset and the previous generation and many foreign analogues is that it does not need any satellite navigation.” ‘Udarnyy bespilotnik Lantset: kop’ye XXI veka,’ Rostec.ru, https://rostec.ru/news/udarnyy-bespilotnik-lantset-kope-xxi-veka/, August 30, 2019.

[73] Anton Valagin, ‘Primeneniye rossiyskogo drona-kamikadze pokazali na video,’ Rossiyskaya Gazeta, https://rg.ru/2021/04/17/primenenie-rossijskogo-drona-kamikadze-pokazali-na-video.html, April 17, 2021.

[74] Vladimir Karnozov, ‘Barrazhiruyushchiye boyepripasy reshayut sud’bu Karabakha,’ Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://nvo.ng.ru/realty/2020-10-09/2_1112_karabakh2.html, October 9, 2020).

[75] Vladimir Shcherbakov, ‘Vsplesk novoy voyennoy revolyutsii,’ Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://nvo.ng.ru/armament/2021-03-11/1_1132_drones.html, March 11, 2021.

[76] Anton Lavrov, Bogdan Stepovoy, ‘Letyashchey navodkoy: rossiyskaya armiya zakazala bespilotnyye ognemetchiki: Novaya sistema pozvolit nanosit’ po protivniku udary termobaricheskimi i zazhigatel’nymi bombami,’ Izvestia, https://iz.ru/1230786/anton-lavrov-bogdan-stepovoi/letiashchei-navodkoi-rossiiskaia-armiia-zakazala-bespilotnye-ognemetchiki, October 5, 2021.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Colonel M. Mitrofanov, Lieutenant-Colonel D. Vasyukov, Major V. Anisimov, ‘Prakticheskiye Rekomendatsii Zashchita Elementov Sistemy Svyazi Ot Bespilotnykh Letatel’nykh Apparatov,’ https://army.ric.mil.ru/Stati/item/343042/, Armeyskiy Sbornik, No.9, 2021.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid.

[81] V.P, Kutakhov, A.Ye, Titov, ‘Krupnomasshtabnyye aviatsionnyye sistemy s bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami – novaya paradigma boyevykh deystviy,’ Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily. Teoriya i Praktika, No.19, September 2021, pp.212-221.

[82] Although the authors assert that the AI national guidance documents lay the basis for such developments, these in fact contain no reference to the military use of AI. Kutakhov, V.P, ‘Intellektualizatsiya aviatsionnykh kompleksov,’ Materialy zasedaniya Mezhvedomstvennoy rabochey gruppy po podgotovke predlozheniy, napravlennykh na vyyavleniye perspektivnykh i proryvnykh napravleniy nauchno-tekhnicheskogo i innovatsionnogo razvitiya aviatsionnoy otrasli, 2018, pp.34–36; Ukaz No. 490, ‘O razvitii iskusstvennogo intellekta v Rossiyskoy Federatsii,’ http://www.garant.ru/products/ipo/prime/doc/72738946, 2019; Rasporyazheniye Pravitel’stva Rossiyskoy Federatsii, No.2129-r, http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001202008260005, August 19, 2020; Federal’nyy zakon No. 123-FZ, ‘O provedenii eksperimenta po ustanovleniyu spetsial’nogo regulirovaniya v tselyakh sozdaniya neobkhodimykh usloviy dlya razrabotki i vnedreniya tekhnologiy iskusstvennogo intellekta v sub’yekte Rossiyskoy Federatsii – gorode federal’nogo znacheniya Moskve i vnesenii izmeneniy v stat’i 6 i 10 Federal’nogo zakona O personal’nykh dannykh,’ http://ivo.garant.ru/#/document/73945195/paragraph/1:0, October 24, 2020.

[83] Kutakhov, Titov, ‘Krupnomasshtabnyye aviatsionnyye sistemy s bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami – novaya paradigma boyevykh deystviy,’ Op.Cit.

[84] Jacek Siminski, ‘What The Air Campaign in Ukraine Tells Us About The Current State Of The Russian Air Force,’ The Aviationist, https://theaviationist.com/2022/03/04/russian-campaign-in-ukraine/, March 4, 2022.

[85] Dmitry Adamsky, ‘Russian Lessons Learned From the Operation in Syria: A Preliminary Assessment,’in Glen E. Howard and Matthew Czekaj (Eds), Russia’s Military Strategy and Doctrine, The Jamestown Foundation, 2019, pp.385-86.

[86] See: Yu. Shepovalenko (Ed), Siriyskiy Rubezh, 2nd ed, Moscow: Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, 2016; Robert E. Hamilton, Chris Miller, Aaron Stein, Russia’s War in Syria: Assessing Military Capabilities and Lessons Learned, FPRI, 2020.

[87] R. N. Pukhov, Burya na Kavkaze, Moscow: Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, 2021.

[88] Rostopchin, V. V, ‘Udarnyye bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty i protivovozdushnaya oborona – problemy i perspektivy protivostoyaniya,’ Bespilotnaya Aviatsiya, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331772628_Udarnye_bespilotnye_letatelnye_apparaty_i_protivovozdusnaa_oborona_-problemy_i_perspektivy_protivostoania, 2019; Aminov, S, ‘PVO v bor’be s BPLA,’ UAV.ru, Bespilotnaya Aviatsiya, http://www.uav.ru/articles/pvo_vs_uav.pdf, April 3, 2012; Lopatkin, D. V, Savchenko A. YU, Solokha N. G, ‘K voprosu o bor’be s takticheskimi bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami, Voyennaya Mysl’, No.2, 2014, pp.41-47; Godunov, A. I, Shishkov, S. V, Yurkov, N. K, ‘Sistema upravleniya kompleksnymi metodami bor’by s malogabaritnymi bespilotnymi letate’nymi apparatami,’ Trudy mezhdunarodnogo simpoziuma nadezhnost’ i kachestvo, Vol. 1, Penza: Penzenskiy gosudarstvennyy universitet, 2014.

[89] Khodarenok, M, ‘Boyevoy roy: v armiyu SSHA prizvali gremlinov,’ Vpk-name/news, https://vpk.name/news/215425_boevoi_roi_v_armiyu_ssha_prizvali_gremlinov.html, May 16, 2018.

[90] Orlov, V, ‘Bayraktary protiv Pantsirey,’ Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, https://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/57318, No.21, 2020.

[91]Protivostoyaniye ZRK Pantsir’-S1 i turetskikh BPLA: repetitsiya voyn budushchego,’ Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://topwar.ru/172126-protivostojanie-zrk-pancir-s1-i-tureckih-bpla-repeticija-vojn-buduschego.html, June 14, 2020; ‘ZPRK Pantsir’ protiv ataki BPLA slabyye mesta pri variante slaboy obuchennosti ekipazhey,’ Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://topwar.ru/171955-zrpk-pancir-protiv-ataki-bpla-slabye-mesta-pri-variante-slaboj-obuchennosti-jekipazhej.html, June 8, 2020; ‘Udarnyye BPLA izmenili khod boyevykh deystviy v Sirii i Livii,’ Voyennoye Obozreniye, https://topwar.ru/172367-udarnye-bpla-izmenili-hod-boevyh-dejstvij-v-sirii-i-livii.html, June 23, 2020; Soyustov, A, ‘Uspekh turetskikh bespilotnikov v Idlibe okazalsya dutym,’ Federal’noye agentstvo novostey, https://riafan.ru/1258020-uspekh-tureckikh-bespilotnikov-v-idlibe-okazalsya-dutym, March 11, 2020; Orlov, ‘Bayraktary protiv Pantsirey,’ Op.Cit.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Aksenov, P, ‘Voyna dronov v Karabakhe: kak bespilotniki izmenili konflikt mezhdu Azerbaydzhanom i Armeniyey,’ BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-54431129, October 6, 2020; Rozhin, B, ‘Nagornyy Karabakh stal pervoy voynoy epokhi udarnykh bespilotnikov,’ Federal’noye agenstvo novostey, https://riafan.ru/1320335-nagornyi-karabakh-stal-pervoi-voinoi-epokhi-udarnykh-bespilotnikov, October 12, 2020; ‘V Karabakhe turetskiye Bayraktar TB2 unichtozhili sovetskiye Osy i Strely,’ Lenta.ru, https://lenta.ru/news/2020/09/29/bayraktartb2/, September 29, 2020.

[94] Ilya Afonin, Associate Professor at the Department of aviation and radio-electronic equipment. Krasnodar Higher Military School of Pilots, Sergey Makarenko, Leading Researcher St. Petersburg Federal research center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergey Petrov, Lecturer at the Department of aviation and radio-electronic equipment, Krasnodar Higher Military School of Pilots, Aleksandr Privalov, Associate Professor of the Department of Management and Information Security. Russian University of Transport MIIT.

[95] Afonin I. Ye, Makarenko S. I, Petrov S. V, Privalov A. A, ‘Analiz opyta boyevogo primeneniya grupp bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov dlya porazheniya zenitno-raketnykh kompleksov sistemy protivovozdushnoy oborony v voyennykh konfliktakh v Sirii, v Livii i v Nagornom Karabakhe,’ Sistemy Upravleniya, Svyazi i Bezopasnosti, No.4, 2020, pp.163-191.

[96] Afonin, I. Ye, Yermakov, D. A, ‘Nekotoryye aspekty analiza informatsionnogo konflikta v tekhnicheskoy sfere,’ Innovatsionnyye tekhnologii v obrazovatel’nom protsesse. Sbornik materialov XX Yuzhno-Rossiyskoy nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii, Krasnodar: KVVAUL, 2019, pp.42-46. Afonin, I. Ye, Makarenko, S. I, Mitrofanov D. V, ‘Analiz kontseptsii Bystrogo global’nogo udara sredstv vozdushno-kosmicheskogo napadeniya i obosnovaniye perspektivnykh napravleniy razvitiya sistemy vozdushno-kosmicheskoy oborony v Arktike v interesakh zashchity ot nego,’ Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily. Teoriya i Praktika, No.15, 2020, pp.75-87; Afonin, I. Ye, Yermakov, D. A, ‘Bystryy global’nyy udar i vozmozhnosti yemu protivodeystvovat’,’ Innovatsionnyye tekhnologii v obrazovatel’nom protsesse. Sbornik materialov XXI Rossiyskoy zaochnoy nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii, Krasnodar: KVVAUL, 2020, pp.241-247; Yermakov, D. A, Afonin, I. Ye, ‘Osobennosti primeneniya sredstv radioelektronnoy bor’by v lokal’nykh voynakh i vooruzhennykh konfliktakh poslednikh let,’ Mezhvuzovskiy sbornik nauchnykh trudov, Krasnodar: KVVAUL, 2019, pp.99-104.

[97] Afonin, Makarenko, Petrov, Privalov ‘Analiz opyta boyevogo primeneniya grupp bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov dlya porazheniya zenitno-raketnykh kompleksov sistemy protivovozdushnoy oborony v voyennykh konfliktakh v Sirii, v Livii i v Nagornom Karabakhe,’ Op.Cit.

[98] Ibid.

[99] P.A. Dulnev, S.A. Sychev, A.V, Garvardt, ‘Osnovnyye napravleniya razvitiya taktiki Sukhoputnykh voysk (po opytu vooruzhennogo konflikta v Nagornom Karabakhe),’ Voyennaya Mysl’, No.11, 2021, pp.49-62.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Emphasis in the original.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Emphasis in the original.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Emphasis in the original.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Colonel-General I.A, Buvaltsev, Colonel O.A, Abdrashitov, Colonel A.V, Garvard, ‘Razvitiye taktiki v sovremennykh usloviyakh,’ Voyennaya Mysl’, No. 10, 2021, pp.30-37.

[108] Afonin, Makarenko, Petrov, Privalov ‘Analiz opyta boyevogo primeneniya grupp bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov dlya porazheniya zenitno-raketnykh kompleksov sistemy protivovozdushnoy oborony v voyennykh konfliktakh v Sirii, v Livii i v Nagornom Karabakhe,’ Op.Cit; Dulnev, S.A. Sychev, A.V. Garvardt, ‘Osnovnyye napravleniya razvitiya taktiki Sukhoputnykh voysk (po opytu vooruzhennogo konflikta v Nagornom Karabakhe),’ Op.Cit.

[109] Siminski, ‘What The Air Campaign in Ukraine Tells Us About The Current State Of The Russian Air Force,’ Op.Cit.

[110] Zhukovskiy, ‘Bespilotnik-smertnik: Kalashnikov pokazal miru novinku,’ Op.Cit; Frolov, ‘Sostoyaniye, zadachi i funktsii gosudarstvennogo tsentra bespilotnoy aviatsii ministerstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii,’ Op.Cit; Ivanov, Bespilotnyye letatel’nyye apparaty. Spravochnoye posobiye, Op.Cit; Fetisov, Bespilotnaya aviatsiya: terminologiya, klassifikatsiya, sovremennoye sostoyaniye, Op.Cit; Chekinov, Bogdanov, ‘Priroda i soderzhaniye voyny novogo pokoleniya,’ Op.Cit.

[111] Anan’yev, A.V, Rybalko, A.G, Ryazantsev, L.B, Klevtsov, R.P, ‘Primeneniye razvedyvatel’no-udarnykh grupp bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov malogo klassa po ob’yektam aerodromnykh uchastkov dorog,’ Voyennaya Mysl’, No.1, 2020, pp.85–98.

[112] Afonin, Makarenko, Petrov, Privalov ‘Analiz opyta boyevogo primeneniya grupp bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov dlya porazheniya zenitno-raketnykh kompleksov sistemy protivovozdushnoy oborony v voyennykh konfliktakh v Sirii, v Livii i v Nagornom Karabakhe,’ Op.Cit.

[113]Rossiyskiy udarnyy bespilotnik S-70 stanet nezametnym dlya vraga,’ Op.Cit.

[114] ‘Weapons of the War in Ukraine’ Op.Cit.

[115]Putin nazval chislo nakhodyashchikhsya na vooruzhenii rossiyskoy armii bespilotnikov,’ Op.Cit.

[116] Filin, Ye.D, Kirichek, R.V, ‘Metody obnaruzheniya malorazmernykh bespilotnykh letatel’nykh apparatov na osnove analiza elektromagnitnogo spektra,’ Informatsionnyye Tekhnologii i Telekommunikatsii, No. 2, 2018, pp.88–93.

[117] Makarenko, S.I, Timoshenko, A.V, Vasil’chenko, A.S, ‘Analiz sredstv i sposobov protivodeystviya bespilotnym letatel’nym apparatam,’ Part 1, Bespilotnyy letatel’nyy apparat kak ob’yekt obnaruzheniya i porazheniya, Sistemy Upravleniya, Svyazi i Bezopasnosti, No.1, 2020, pp.109–146.

[118] Dulnev, Sychev, Garvardt, ‘Osnovnyye napravleniya razvitiya taktiki Sukhoputnykh voysk (po opytu vooruzhennogo konflikta v Nagornom Karabakhe),’ Op.Cit.

[119] V.P, Kutakhov, A.Ye, Titov, ‘Krupnomasshtabnyye aviatsionnyye sistemy s bespilotnymi letatel’nymi apparatami – novaya paradigma boyevykh deystviy,’ Op.Cit.

[120] Ibid.